Part 2: Safe places
What I know about the history of Quakers seems to indicate that they were pretty heavily invested in the Protestant work ethic. That being the case, I'm sure our heavenly Friends are not looking down upon me with approval as I write a blog entry instead of trying to use the time to catch up on my work. Oh well....
When I was beginning to attend meeting for worship, the clerk sometimes broke meeting a bit early and announced, "Friends, today is the day we Quakers hold meeting for business, so after a short break, let's reconvene."
Not feeling ready to attend a meeting for business, I left the first few times I heard that announcement. Then one day I decided to stay and observe.
One of the business items that a Friend brought before the group that morning was a request from two ladies who were not present, friends of his but not Friends themselves, to use the meetinghouse for a commitment ceremony. A same-sex commitment ceremony -- just in case I need to spell it out for you, gentle reader.
I waited for lightening to strike the building.
This was the first time I had ever been in the company of persons gathered as believers and practitioners of a religion who were openly talking about ...you know...uh...gay people...uh...who were intending to...uh...you know...live together...with the blessing of God.
Then the Friend said something that I'll never forget:
"You may have noticed Gail and Kathy (not their real names) here attending meeting the past few weeks. They told me they feel safe here."
That's when lightening hit me.
They felt safe at the meetinghouse ... they felt safe among Quakers.
And I thought of all the Christian denominations I knew about, including the one I had grown up in (and had been married in and had baptized my children into)...and I thought: Many gay people feel threatened or judged when they go to pray in those places. And I wondered for the first time in my life: How can any church say it proclaims the message of Jesus knowing (for they must know) that there are people sitting in the congregation who don't feel safe, who feel judged?
As the discussion progressed, I learned that this was not the first time such a request had been brought before meeting for business, and that the meeting members had already threshed* the question of whether or not to accept gay persons and had eventually decided in the affirmative.
'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Wherever some of God's children are threatened, all are threatened, and wherever some of God's children are made to feel safe and welcome, then all are truly safe and truly welcome. This, I think, is what the parable of the wedding feast is about in Chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew.
And you know, I'm straight, but I realized that I felt safe there too.
*"Threshing Session: A gathering of Friends to consider in depth a controversial
issue but in a way that is free from the necessity of reaching a decision." See: "Glossary." Faith and Practice. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.