On Saturday, November 4, members of seven Mid-America Disciples congregations, in addition to several from United Church of Christ congregations, and members of our Disciples of Christ LGBTQ+ Council gathered at Compton Heights Christian Church in St. Louis for a “Building An Inclusive Church Training.”
It was a faith-filled, hope-filled day as we talked about what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ which fully includes everyone God welcomes at the Table of Christ. Those present were people wanting to help their congregations have faithful study and discussion of what it means to be Open and Affirming communities of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The training was led by the Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston, Executive Director of the Open and Affirming Ministries program of the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance (formerly called GLAD Alliance). Congregations represented were at many places in the process; from those “just thinking about starting a conversation” to those who understand themselves as welcoming of LGBTQ+ people but have not done a congregation-wide study taken the step to declare themselves “Open & Affirming” to one congregation that has been officially “O & A” for a long time and is always exploring how to deepen their ministry.
The material introduced and explored is the “Building An Inclusive Church Toolkit.” What is wonderful about this resource is that it is not just a curriculum. Rather it recognizes that every congregation is different, with different needs, different starting places, different contexts. The ‘Toolkit’ gives congregations the tools to assess where the congregation is beginning, and to create the journey, with a variety of suggested resources. Most of all, we are called to connect with our heart, to listen to each other, and to be open to the life experience and spiritual journey of God’s people!
Hosting this event was the culmination of a week of involvement for Compton Heights Christian Church. Some of us were involved in the 3 day Ecumenical Christian conference “Rolling the Stone Away” which was held in St. Louis, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. At this conference, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Affirming Christians from across the United States worshiped, remembered the Saints who have gone before us, gathered in workshops, and celebrated the movement of the Spirit in the Church and society. Disciples leaders in the movement spoke with such faith, power, and grace!
Then on Friday, Nov. 3, our Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance Council met for retreat at Compton Heights CC and had a wonderful day identifying priorities, such as Anti-Racism work.
So by the time we hosted the training on Saturday, we were full! Then on Sunday, Rev. Jacque Foster, pastor of CHCC, and the Rev. Dan Adolphson, Moderator of Alliance Q (the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance’s nickname!), did a ‘sermon duet’ and the Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston shared a Mission moment in worship. Worship on that All Saints Sunday celebrated how we “practice hope” at the Table of Christ; a perfect way to lead us forward surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
Read more about Compton Heights CC history of open and affirming ministry in Jacque's reflection "How did we get here?"