Over sixteen years ago, twelve women took a class I taught entitled Christian Feminist Theology. Toward the end of the class several women said, "We want to do church that looks like this."
For me, it was the beginning of a vision of what spiritual community could look like. Okay, then it was all women and mostly lesbians but it was s a good start. Our intent was to build community way more expansive. We didn't want to repeat what we saw/see to be the shortcomings of the traditional church. Instead, we have found plenty of our own unique shortcomings. But more on that at a later date.
At our first retreat, working to form a covenant that expressed our vision, our big question was ' is there anyone who would not be welcome?' followed by a lot of 'what if' questions: what if a skinhead came? what if someone showed up naked? or drunk? would those folks be welcome?
Our answer was: everyone is welcome, even those who we find distasteful. The only criteria is that their intent not be to disrupt worship. And by the way, for a long while, someone had a blanket in the trunk of the car, to cover the naked person so s/he didn't disrupt worship.
The bigger vision we held, and still hold, is a community of women and men, children and elders, LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, queer-identified, and intrasexed), heterosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, people with mental health challenges, Asian, African-American, and Latino folk- and anyone we hadn't thought of yet. We wanted and want to create a community that is inclusive. And not merely inclusive of the kind of people who show up, but inclusive in the building relationships, making space for one another and struggling with all the messiness of living in dynamic community.
That kind of community can be built in many contexts but, to me is the imperative of christian life. The vision of all-inclusive community is a vision of the kin-dom. It is how we live Godde's future in the now. Or as theologians would say: it is living eschatologically.
To that end this is the covenant we hammered out early on:
We, the Circle of Grace Community Church, as christians, covenant with God and one another to intentionally and self-reflectively:
* live with compassion and seek justice
* continually discern that to which God calls us
* build spiritual community that is inclusive of race, gender, sexuality, abilities, class,
culture, age and religious backgrounds.
* provide safe haven
* worship and pray together and our worship and prayer and that in our worship and
prayer our language about God and humanity will be inclusive.
* live in right relationship with God and each other
* speak truth to power.
Clearly this is ambitious and not particularly comfortable. Building expansive spiritual community is like building a path in the wilderness: many people have to walk the way before the path becomes either clear or firm. We're walking. We're sometimes screwing it up. We're sometimes the glory of what human beings can be. Mostly, we're walking. We're rolling. We're limping or crawling. We are making a way together through the wilderness.
Stay tuned for more about the good, the bad, the ugly, the profane and the sacredness of our journey together.