Most true stories do not have an ending. They keep going. This is one of those never-ending stories about churches and signs.
Our church was formed between the 1950’s and 1970 with the merger of 4 small historic Protestant churches (American Baptist, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Episcopal.) Throughout all the years that we have been “as one” we have tried to live into the idea that all are welcome here. Our weekly community meal has been going strong for over 25 years. We started and continue a free community clothes closet, housed in a town building. We became a fully open and affirming church more than 2 years ago and our building doors have been open since 9/11/2001 when it was clear that our community needed to have a safe place to go for comfort and consolation at all hours. The story continues.
This past week I was in our fellowship hall with our music director. We were planning an Advent Taizé service, before the choir practice began and before people came for a public showing of an Advent movie. We were more than a bit frazzled like lots of church people are in Advent even as we strive to be in a waiting and wondering mood.
The door to the fellowship hall opened and a young woman stood there, red-eyed and hesitant. She told us that she works in our town and had seen an advertisement for the movie. She said that she tends to be uncomfortable in closed spaces so she wanted to see how she would feel in our space, having never before entering our church.
The music director took her under her wing, almost literally, and showed her the room, the multiple exits, the places that she could sit if she wanted to make a quick exit. The young woman started to cry, and she told me that she never comes into churches and did not know what was making her cry other than she had walked in and saw our “welcome sign” (the one we had made for the Pride Parade float) and wondered if that meant her?
And then she saw the word “seriously” and she knew, on a deep level that she was being spoken to. She told me that she was surprised at how loving the two of us were to her, a stranger. That today this might be enough. She was not ready to come to a movie. Maybe she would come back for the quiet Taizé service later in the week. She needed to go. Now.
When she left, my music director and I looked at each other and we said “This is why we are here. Why we were here tonight.”
Our open door paved the way. Our being “in fellowship” paved the way. A sign paved the way. The God who is Love, paves the Way. Seriously.