In celebration of this past week's RIC Sunday, we pass along the following story from a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pullman, Washington:
Trinity Lutheran (Pullman, Washington) began its journey to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation in September 2007 when a member read in The Lutheran that comments on the latest Sexuality Social Statement draft were due in November—and we hadn’t even seen the draft yet! We formed a dedicated group of about a dozen people and called ourselves the Inclusivity Group. We met monthly and planned educational events to raise the consciousness of our congregation about who was not at the table.
We started with a Bible study on Galatians. Then, Pastor Bradley Schmeling (St. John's Lutheran, Atlanta, Georgia) came in April 2008 and made two excellent presentations to us, opening many hearts and minds. Pastor Mark Chavez (from the organization Lutheran CORE) came later in the year to talk to us about what the Bible says about homosexuality—and many more opinions were solidified about what kind of congregation we wanted to be.
In January 2009 we held cottage meetings, watched the RIC video It’s About Being Church, and asked ourselves “What would be the best and worst things that would happen if we became RIC?” One member remarked that, more than any other issue ever discussed at our church, this issue of who is welcome made us really examine what the congregation truly believes—and we knew we wanted to be part of an all-inclusive church. Another member said, “The worst thing that would happen is that other churches in the community would say, ‘Look at those Lutherans, they let in anybody and everybody.’ And isn’t that what church is all about?”
We also held a story-telling event where a person of color, a disabled person, a mother of a Down syndrome child, the brother of a lesbian, the parents of a lesbian with two children, and a child of the parish who is a lesbian, all talked about what it is like to be “the other,” the outsider, and what being accepted in a faith community means to them.
Finally, we were ready for a vote. We voted 89% in favor of becoming an RIC congregation. We wrote a welcoming statement and received our RIC certificate in April 2009, and held a special celebration in September to commemorate our new identity. Members and pastors of other community churches came to celebrate with us and gave us a quilt with prayers attached.
Since we became RIC, we have really seen an increase in diversity in our congregation. We have been welcoming more people of color, more LGBT people, more people from other countries. We are changing, becoming more open and more intentionally welcoming to all people. Our programming revolves around living hospitality. This year, our Lenten journey will center on the film Lars and the Real Girl, a story of tolerance and acceptance. We will hear from community groups who work with the disabled and “outsiders” and how we can help them with their work. We will hear sermons about outsiders in the Bible who were called by God to use their gifts in service. We are learning what it really means to be welcoming, and the RIC process really helped us to open our hearts and our minds to “the other.”
Trinity Lutheran Church