Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Faith, Hope, Love

I'm just back from a weekend revival with the Reconciling Ministries Network at their 9th Reconciling Convocation, "Faith, Hope, Love", held in Nashville, TN. What a wonderful weekend!

With close to 500 Reconciling United Methodists from across the connection, we celebrated our vision of a fully inclusive church through worship, prayer, Bible study and preaching. From the witty scholarship of Dr. A.J. Levine to the rousing preaching of Rev. Dr. Gayle Carlton Felton, one couldn't help but be moved by the weekend's events.

Yet, for me the most amazing part of the weekend was not the planned presentations nor the communal worship. My Reconciling highlight happened at the margins of the conference as I re-connected with an old friend from Latin America.

Hace muchos anos, I lived in Latin America, spending time in southern Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua as a student and missionary (VIM) for the General Board of Global Ministries. Most of my time there was spent working with conservative Protestant churches, many of whom were not open and welcoming to LGBT persons. Although we worked together across cultural, linguistic and theological divides on a variety of justice ministries, sexuality was taboo and never once broached during my time in mission. While I suppose my friends may have suspected where I stood on this issue, we dared not talk about it.

You can imagine my surprise then, when from across the Convocation room this weekend I spotted a friend I met in 1994 while living in Mexico. Standing there in the doorway, I could hardly believe my eyes! An old friend from that Mexican church with whom I once sang coritos and went to vigilias, stood before me as a fellow participant of the Reconciling Convocation! My shock quickly turned to joy as I ran across the ballroom.

"Soy yo. Soy Tiffany....la misionera!"

Rusty Spanish coupled with such surprise rendered me almost speechless.

Immediately a look of both shock and fear flashed before both of our eyes as we were outed to one another.

"?Que estas haciendo aqui?" we both cried.

"?Vos?" I said.

"?Y vos?" he said.

It did not take more than a few seconds for our fear to transform into sheer joy as we re-connected across the years. We spent the next few days in hurried and broken Spanish (mine, of course) trying to catch up a decade's worth of living.

It is amazing the unspoken fear the Church creates, silencing, closeting and dividing its members. I wonder what our lives would have been like if we had dared cross that religious and cultural taboo years before. What did we lose in our relationship by hiding parts of ourselves from one another for so long?

1 comment:

Jules said...

Tiffany, what a beautiful story of reconnection!

I too had an amazing time at the Convocation and reconnected with people I knew from other times and places but nothing like that. It was a wonderful time of meeting fellow UM people and others working for a common goal of inclusion. And I even managed to make a connection with a pastor for my parents who are going to visit his church this coming Sunday. Who'd have thought that with them in one state, the RMN meeting in another and me living in a third state could possibly result in my parents finding a new church home? The whole weekend was an amazing and beautiful experience.

Thank you for contributing to the success of the Convocation.

Julie