By Blogger Rev. Marj Johnston
One my biggest fears in coming out was that I wouldn’t be welcome to the home I’d known with my parents, sisters and their families, even at Christmas or other “high holy days.” Imagine my surprise in reading through the various biblical texts at one point, recognizing that perhaps Mary and Joseph shared that same fear, albeit for different reasons!
In further conversation with friends who are the “A” in LGBTQA (“a” is for allies), I was reminded that there are many reasons so many in our world worry about being welcome at home or anyplace else we might wish to be … with loved ones; ALL our loved ones.
No one shouts to the people in my rural hometown that I’m on my way “home.” No one sounds the bells and summons the stars to shine on the roads I traverse from point to point (unless that’s what we mean by singing “don we now our gay apparel”). And each time I go “home” I fret less and recognize that “home” is any number of places, always with someone who loves me as I am.
How do any of us find a place of welcome with family or friends or those we claim as our intentional family? What about going “home” to the pews of our childhood or youth where we once gathered for pageants that tried to make sense of a runaway teen and her fiancé who were left giving birth to their firstborn in a barn out in the middle of nowhere? How many of us feel like runaways out in the middle of nowhere, sometimes gazing at stars and other times blinking into the darkness hoping for a star?
I say we find welcome “home” without apology. True, I’ve been blessed with a grace in my birth family that I know others crave. Oh, there are questions, and it isn’t that they’re too polite to ask or to want to know more about this “coming out” process that seems never-ending in one fashion or another. But they are the very people who taught me from childhood to now even to become who it is God created me to be—in God’s own image—and without apology. Somehow my immediate and extended family felt there would be deep personal grief if any one of us were slighted or given the impression that we were not welcome. There were days when my own discomfort in becoming me perhaps stifled my presence, and then only because I didn’t know how to articulate for myself how I knew that I was still a beloved child of God, created in the image of the Holy One.
Without apology and in spite of differences of opinion held by people in the community and even the church, we as a family unit often wander to our home church’s Christmas Eve service, grateful for the occasion to be together and laughing, finding strength and courage, hope AND peace, in being together in spite of differing views or perspectives on so many things. Even in my middle adult years as a fully out and ordained clergy, there is something deeply hopeful in standing next to my parents who recognize that the welcome to which they invited us as children didn’t come with conditions, affirming that we would always be welcome home and to their house of worship because that’s how they experience God, welcoming any and all who will come. It is my honor and privilege to this year serve a congregation in another rural community (Dayton) where others who have been held at arm’s length get to hear—some for the first time—welcome “home” for Christmas!