A Message from Rev. Christopher Ryan

“Normal,” “Traditional,” or not – All are Welcome

Our Prayer of Gathering on the first Sunday in Advent was supposed to include:

Because of You we come to know the way to Bethlehem, where justice is born ​to a shunned family, where the riches of Your love are born into poverty.

“A shunned family” – Is this true?

“A shunned family,” – I removed it. I do not believe it.

As a fresh, young minister more than 30 years ago, one of the very first greetings I received was from a woman in the local, country store. “Judge not, lest you be judged. Is what I go by,” she said. “Some people around here might not like the way I live but ….” She continued a discourse that included glass houses and stones, and “the church would fall down if I entered.” The encounter was curious. I had not heard a single condemning comment about her or about anybody else in the community. She, however, seemed to assume that fingers were wagged ​at her
​ and tongues were wagged ​about her
​ . Her grievous sin? She was not formally married to the man with whom she lived and with whom she was raising children. 30 years of ministry has been and remains punctuated by forms of apology or sheepish comments regarding a person’s own marital or family status, structure or circumstance. “We’re not really married… Is that OK?” Such comments remain curious to me because the circumstances most often described as “outside the norm” are really quite common. Also, circumstances for which people assume they will be judged by the church are shared by many people in the church.

Luke 2:5-7 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Mary was an unwed mother who gave birth in a barn (or a cave, or a shed, or a lean-too – we are not sure which). Her explanation was that God, through the Holy Spirit, was the biological father. I challenge anybody to present a family circumstance more uncommon than that. Yet, far from being shunned, far from having to offer an apology or to be sheepish; this is the most honoured and celebrated family in the Church. If Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus presented themselves at Trinity United Church on Christmas Eve, they would not be judged. I suspect we would baptize the baby on the spot. This holds true for your family too.

This Christmas and always, you and your family, you and your way of being with people you love are welcome without apology, explanation or judgement. If we can celebrate Mary, Joseph and Jesus; we can celebrate you.

“Normal,” “Traditional,” or not – All are Welcome

You are welcome.

Please let us know.

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