I believe that I have read about a somewhat similar occurrence in one or more of my books, but the one I am about to type in was written by a member of my church and is therefore more personal for me. I called her today and received her permission to post this on my blog. Gina Massoni, the author, read this to our church, The First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, during announcements on February 8, 2004. She did not need a title. So the title is one that I made up for blog purposes. From here on imagine that Gina is reading to you.
I want to tell you a story about why it's so important to me that our church live out our "open and affirming" decision.
My aunt--my mother's sister--has been together with her partner, a woman, for at least the last 15 years. Her partner is as much a part of our family as my dad and my other aunt, who married my mom's brother. She has a calming influence when Herndon tempers flare; she is able to suggest that the rest of us look at the bigger picture and not take things so personally.
She has tremendous teaching skills that sustained her in her employment as a child protective services worker, and now as a teacher to at-risk and challenged youth. My grandfather even included her when he created our family corporation--the true bottom line for him.
But when we attended my grandfather’s funeral, something happened in a church setting that I don’t ever want to see repeated. The minister was giving an introduction and biography of my grandfather. He named my grandmother as the loving wife, my uncle as the eldest son along with his wife, my mother as the eldest daughter, and my aunt. Period. There was no mention of my aunt’s partner, her family.
I don’t know if this was a choice by the minister to omit her name or if my grandmother simply did not feel safe enough in her church setting to tell him my aunt’s partner’s name. She has been part of that church for more than 40 years. It seems incredibly sad to me that her church, for as well as they know her, is not able to recognize my beloved aunt as part of my family.
So I say to you, no matter how scary it seems and no matter how much it may be different from what other churches and our society in general are doing, we cannot allow our church to be closed to the reality of who people’s families are, thereby shutting them out from our love and recognition, especially when they are grieving. We must publicly state that this community is open and will affirm the truth of all partnerships formed out of love and respect.