Undone by Love: The Neighbor

(Note: This was from last week.  The web site was down and this could not be posted.)

There are two streets that run on parallel tracks through North Oak Cliff, the neighborhood where Church in the Cliff and many of its people reside.  When I drive down Jefferson Boulevard, I feel like I should have hired a translator for the trip.  Everything is in Spanish.  There are nineteen quinceañeras.  There are mercados and supermercados.  There are services for people who live hand to mouth: check cashing, loans, pawn shops.  There are also a lot of people walking around.  It feels like there is a lot of life being lived on Jefferson Boulevard.

Davis Street has its fair share of Spanish, but it is gradually disappearing.  For years, old auto repair shops and warehouses have been turned into shops and restaurants.  A couple of years ago, it was rezoned so that no new mechanics could move in.  Instead, there are high-end restaurants from some of the best culinary minds in Dallas.  Boutique wine shops.  Organic food co-ops.  And lots of white people.  In cars.  On one end of Davis, in the Bishop Arts District, the traffic and parking are so bad that many of the locals don’t go there anymore, especially on weekends.  Something is growing on Davis Street.

So what does all this have to do with church?  And God?  Well, we’ve been talking about how love deconstructs systems of power, how God crosses the boundary lines that we hold dear.  In order to participate in that, we have to first see those lines and then be willing to cross over.

There are boundaries in our neighborhood and even around our church.  I live in Oak Cliff, in part, because I want diversity.  But I don’t shop on Jefferson Street.  I love the new restaurants and shops on Davis.  I draw a line around myself; I make my own borders.  I stay on my side of them, safely in my comfort zone.  Worse, I sit by and watch (and sometimes actively participate) in moving those boundaries, encroaching just a little more on the lives of people I will probably never meet.  It’s imperialism on a small scale.  Divisions are maintained instead of contested.  The life of God calls us to something else, even – especially! – in our own backyard.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at the Kessler, as we talk about the ways we distance ourselves from our neighbors.  Whether it’s the onerous War on Drugs or simple “economic development,” we’ll expose the lines that separate us and see if there is a better way.

Grace and Peace,

Vote August 5 to Join AWAB

At the Alliance of Baptists annual gathering in April, I met the Reverend Robin Lunn, Executive Director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB).  The mission of AWAB is “to create and support a community of churches, organizations and individuals committed to the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the full life and mission of Baptist churches.”  As a church with a longstanding commitment to this goal of full inclusion, it seems a natural fit for us to join in their efforts.

In order to join, we must do a few things.  First, we must decide to do so.  Second, we must agree on a financial gift to AWAB.  I suggest $150 per year, which will be included in the budget under discussion.  Third, we must add a statement of welcome to our by-laws to ensure that our church remains committed to being open and affirming.  I suggest we establish a team to put that together and vote on it at our September meeting.

In joining AWAB, we get some benefits.  AWAB serves as a vetting organization for a group of partners working for full inclusion, such as Believe Out Loud.  In talking to other ministers at the Alliance gathering, we shared stories of the inquiries we have gotten about our inclusivity.  After telling the inquirer that we are a welcoming and affirming church, it is a given that the follow-up question will be: “But are you really?”  Joining AWAB will allow us to be on lists of churches where people can be sure that they will be fully included.  This is, of course, a marketing tool, but there is a larger purpose.

Churches need to come out of the closet.  Right now, the discourse around sexuality overwhelmingly features churches that are opposed to the concerns of LGBTQ folk.  Many other churches are silent because of denominational politics.  The result is that people think that the only valid Christian option is to oppose homosexuality and the civil rights of LGBTQ folk.  This creates a cultural inertia to the point that some churches cannot be openly open and affirming because it could compromise the lives and livelihoods of their members.  When individuals come out, it is harder and harder for society to exclude them, legally or otherwise.  When churches come out, it changes the conversation; it redraws the lines between the just and the unjust.

We have been welcoming and affirming for a long, long time.  It’s time for us to be more open about it.

Suggestions Wanted

Finally, the Worship Team is looking for suggestions for the next series to begin in mid-August.  What would you like to talk about?  What are you wondering about?  What does your soul need?  Email suggestions to sshirley999@yahoo.com.

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