I spent the first part of the day yesterday in Tarrytown attending the "Welcoming Church" workshop at Christ Church. I had a lovely train ride up (and back) with amazing views of the Hudson River and of New Jersey across the way. And I do not think I had ever seen most of Tarrytown previously--certainly I had never been to Christ Church before.
I really enjoyed the workshop and find it to be challenging and thought-provoking. I discovered many resources that I had not known of previously and plan to spend some time exploring them. The three things that touched me most were the stories of individuals to find a real church home, the stories of congregations to become really inclusive and finally some new insight into the status of the struggle-on a diocesan, national, and Anglican Communion level.
Many (I would like to think most) of our parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of New York are welcoming. That is a big step forward and must certainly be acknowledged. And yet, there is a gap. Not all are really inclusive. And there is a difference! It is one thing to say that "anyone is welcome to attend" and entirely another to say that the gifts, talents, and resources of every person are wanted and needed. It takes courage to invite "others" to become active, and ultimately even to become involved in leadership of a parish. The question of to what degree the "other" is fully integrated into the parish is not always an easy one to answer.
The other question, and a far-more challenging one for me, is the degree to which the parish publicly indicates that it really is both welcoming and inclusive. What language is used? What symbols are displayed? How is the message effectively communicated?
I attended this workshop because I have been asked to serve on the Steering Committee of the New York Chapter of Integrity. And so I was very pleased to learn more about the amazing work that has already been accomplished in the EDNY--I could not say enough good things about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Committee. And, I was really astonished by Christ Church--clearly there are some wonderful things happening there.
On a final note, although this was a workshop to explore the degree to which LGBTQ people are welcomed into congregations and then are included in the life of the community, I constantly found myself thinking that the very same methodology could be used for any group. The same issues exist for any group of person who is perceived (at least by some) as "different" or "other." And if the goal is for parishes to be truly diverse, welcoming and inclusive--that takes a lot of intentional, difficult, and perhaps even painful work. One of the Integrity slogans that I like most is "All the Sacraments for All the Baptized." What a wonderful goal.
With Much Love,
A native of the Beech Mountain Community of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, Millard came to St. Bartholomew's after a varied and colorful past in which he served in ministry, as an educator, and as a technical support trainer and technician for relational databases. Along the way he earned a B.A. in history (Appalachian State University) two masters degrees in theology (M.A. in Systematic Theology and the M.Div. from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, PA) and two masters degrees in history (M.A. and M.Phil. in Early Modern European history from Fordham University). For 15 years Millard was a Benedictine monk of St, Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe (the oldest Benedictine monastery in the US) and served for 12 years as a Roman Catholic priest (mostly in the Archdiocese of New York). A dedicated student of Romance languages, he earned minors in French and Spanish and after high school lived for a semester in France. He was worked hard to maintain his fluency in conversational French and Spanish. Millard has been a parishioner of St. Bart's for almost three years and describes the day that he was received by Bishop Catherine Roskam as one of the most meaningful experiences of his adult life. Millard is the son of Janice Storie Davis and the younger brother of Jackie Miller and Debbie Nobles-all of NC. He is a proud uncle of three nephews and of six great-nephews and nieces and an avid amateur photographer, reader, and music lover (everything from Southern Gospel to Pop Latino). In 2009, Millard was accepted as a postulant in the Brotherhood of St. Gregory.
This May Millard has joined the Steering Committee of Integrity NYC-Metro.