Ahhh…summertime as a kid. No school, no homework, no worries. Playing outside until the streetlights came on, swimming in the pool, or jumping through a sprinkler. Those were the good ole days! But nothing was as special as waiting until dusk and catching lightning bugs. At least that’s what they were called in my neck of the woods. And by that I mean Baltimore City (smile). I know further down south they are known as fireflies. I recently learned that these fun bugs are not native to all parts of the country. I feel bad for those who have missed out.
Catching lightning bugs was one of the highlights of summer. First you had to search for the perfect container. Once you had that, you carefully punched holes in the top so that the lightning bugs could breathe in their new habitat. Collecting sticks, grass, and various types of leaves made for the perfect little living space for your prized bugs. The next step was the fun part…catching them. You had to keep your eyes peeled in every direction. You would see one blink and then disappear into the dark sky. You tried to follow with your eyes where they may light up again. Sometimes we would run in circles after those things, but it was so much fun. They were magical. I mean…how and why does a bug’s butt light up?! And since they only came out in the summer, they were special.
My last post was about the Pride parade and what a fun time that was for everyone. I’m so thankful to have had that special time because things have been tough lately. I have been bombarded with so many heart breaking stories, kids in crisis, families seeking help…it’s been a bit overwhelming for this mama’s heart. I guess you could say that comes with the territory of being an ally, writing a blog, and especially helping to run a PFLAG chapter. Our chapter is a place where the LGBTQ community and their families come to get support. Just like those containers we prepared when we were little kids, we try to prepare our space to be a welcoming and loving environment. We take great care to be present for those who attend because they are special and deserve to be treated as such.
Recently our space has been jeopardized. We learned on Thursday that we can no longer meet in our space at the church where we’ve met the last two years. They gave us six days notice before our next meeting. Can you say panic?! It seems that an AA group has approached them and they took priority over us. We were offered a classroom, but that’s where we originally met and we have outgrown it. They also offered a different night which is what we are going to have to do…even though many have adjusted their work hours to accommodate our meetings. We really don’t have a choice. The church where we meet is an affirming church. And although they suggested we try the church down the street if we want to keep the same night…we aren’t welcome there.
I consider it a bit of false advertisement actually. You see…if you check out church websites, many will say that “all are welcome”. But for some, all doesn’t really mean ALL. In some cases, they mean you are welcome if you deny or hide who you are, and in other cases it means you are welcome and will one day meet the real Jesus and be “healed.” Since PFLAG is LGBTQ affirming, we are most often not included in the ALL. There aren’t a lot of meeting options in our area. We were lucky to have an affirming church in the area where we wanted to hold our meetings. I know they have to do what they have to do…I just wish they would have given us more time. It does make me sad though that they are one of our only options. There are some pastors that are affirming, but their congregations are not and it would cause problems for us to be there. Of course, we don’t want to cause problems for a church. If it takes meetings and debating, then maybe that isn’t the place for us.
I’m guessing there was a time when an AA group wouldn’t have been welcomed in a church. Before there was much research into it being a disease, I’m sure people looked at it as a sin that people just needed to get under control. Although some people have done some pretty drastic things due to their addiction, and some have fallen off the wagon and dragged themselves back onto it, they are welcome. And I’m glad. Alcoholism runs in my family so I am very familiar with the disease. I’m glad that AA is there to help.
The same can’t be said of the LGBTQ community. This is a community that is turned away. Part of the problem is that they are reduced to a sexual act. But even if we did that…if we boiled it down to that one thing…there are many heterosexual people sitting in churches that aren’t following what the church would consider a godly sexual life…yet they are welcome.
I looked up the mission statement for AA and here’s what I found…
AA Mission Statement:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Here is the mission statement for PFLAG…
PFLAG Mission Statement:
By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG realizes its vision through:
- Support for families, allies and people who are LGBTQ
- Education for ourselves and others about the unique issues and challenges facing people who are LGBTQ
- Advocacy in our communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ
Would you attend this church if the following were their values?
We believe that lives are transformed by unconditional love. To help people achieve this, we recognize we must exercise compassion for ourselves and others willing to take the journey toward love and acceptance.
We believes in the responsibility of leading by example. To do this, we commit to listening, supporting and responding in building relationships with those we serve.
We believe that the things that make us diverse are what makes us powerful. To ensure that we are being respectful of everyone we serve, we commit to listening, learning and engaging with diverse communities. We believe true inclusion means to meet others where they are, acknowledging and embracing their stories.
We believe that we are measured by our words and actions. We commit to empowering people in our communities to join together to transform the places where they live.
We believe learning is the key to positive change. Therefore, we commit to providing and involving ourselves in ongoing learning opportunities to continually broaden our worldview, overcome misinformation and bias, in order to live our values.
If you ask me…sounds like a good church. In reality, these are the values of PFLAG…yet we aren’t welcome. (I took out the word PFLAG and words like inclusion – to see the actual list you can visit our website).
I am trying not to lose hope. Like I mentioned, there have been so many stories of hurt…and honestly this just adds to it. My mission is to keep educating and advocating, with all the others who have a passion for this community, with the hope that one day the LGBTQ community will be welcomed into every church. I long for the day that the church takes the time and care to prepare the space. The day that they extend the love and acceptance that this community so desperately wants and deserves. I long for the day that they don’t have to hide or deny who they are, but instead can shine brightly for all to see.
Just like my favorite summer time bugs (smile).
This matters…love matters…love well.