Last Sermon

Lake Michigan, Oceana County

photography by D. Plasman

This Sunday, I will preach my last sermon at a church where, for the past fourteen months, I’ve worked as a co-interim minister.  Interim ministers serve during those times when churches are without a “settled” pastor.

Interim ministers arrive at churches pre-fired.  Our first day on the job comes with the acknowledgement that a search committee is already looking for our permanent replacement.  My replacement arrives September 1.  I will clean out her office, the one I’m currently using, the week prior to her arrival.

The church I’ve called home for more than a year is Edgewood United Church (www.edgewooducc.org), a congregation of the United Church of Christ, located near the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing.  Edgewood believes that no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcomed.

Though I haven’t done a full congregational analysis, I would guess that nearly 20% of the congregation is LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning).  Many leadership positions are chaired by LGBTQ persons.  Some of the most faithful financial givers in the church are LGBTQ members.  Some of my closest friendships these past fourteen months have been with LGBTQ people.

It’s been great, an amazing blessing in my life, and at times for me a learning experience.  I recall more than one occasion walking away from a conversation with an LGBTQ person wondering to myself:  “Holy Crap!  Was that a male or a female I just talked to?”

Edgewood celebrates God’s wonderful creative diversity.  If you’re ever in the Lansing area on a Sunday, check out the worship service at 10:00 AM.

My ordination as a minister remains with the Reformed Church in America, a denomination that still believes homosexual behavior is a sin.  Though a wonderful organization of RCA folks called Room For All (www.roomforall.com) is committed to making the RCA a denomination that welcomes and celebrates LGBTQ persons, the work is slow and change is far beyond the immediate horizon.

Too many RCA pastors and too many in the denomination’s hierarchy fear what such a change would bring and, not least importantly, the negative financial ramifications from wealthy conservative members.  Why does doing or not doing the right thing so often come down to money?

Grand Rapids, the city where my home is and where I pay property taxes, is getting ready to celebrate in September another Art Prize festival.  Grand Rapidians are rightfully proud of this event which attracts artists from around the world and awards over $500,000 in prizes to winning contestants.

Art Prize is partially funded by a billionaire Grand Rapids family that also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting against LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.  I think these folks simply hate gays.  Of course they would never admit this, being the good church goers they are, but I still think they really hate gays.

Too bad we still live in a backward society where basic human rights are the privilege of some but not all.  I think Jesus is mighty pissed off and simply refuses to show up in many of our churches.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Michael James Holton August 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Dan, once again you make me feel blessed to call you my friend.

  2. Robert Adgate August 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Dan, May God continue to Bless you and your determination to do what is right . I truly wish all our clergy had your thoughts, humbleness and positive energy to do what is right… And that is to allow all people to come to God’s table, to pray, worship and love . You are a wonderful man!

    Robert & Brian

  3. rholton August 22, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Dan,

    Church attendance is at record lows. Could it be that members of would-be congregations have found control a stronger voice than faith, forgiveness and love?

    Well said and well done.

    Rosanne

  4. Eric August 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    As I get older I start to realize how often these struggles span generations and sometimes we don’t get to see the prize within a year, a decade or a lifetime. But a spirit of acceptance is is gradually arising, and much of the church will eventually follow.

  5. Rhonda August 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Very well written and appropriately poignant.

  6. Melissa August 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Thank you for the thoughtful words. When I told Lola tonight that you would be leaving as Minister she shouted, “WHAT???” You are certainly a wonderful influence on the church and your willingness to embrace and foster a diverse congregation is wonderful. When you and Jody apologized to the Trans community on the day of remembrance, (on behalf of all clergy who make them feel unwelcome or ashamed) it brought tears to my eyes. Your position as an ally is so very important. Thank you.

  7. Susan MacLean August 22, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    I love the way you stand up for RIGHT…every, single time!

    WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Susan M.

  8. Marilyn Paarlberg August 23, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Thanks, Daniel – first, for the words you’ve spoken about the true nature of the church, and second, for the mention of Room for All. As an organization, we know there’s a ways to go toward full LGBTQ welcome and affirmation in the RCA, but we are not discouraged. This is joy-filled ministry and the signs of God’s blessing are everywhere.

  9. Jan Koopman August 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Thank you Dan for your mention of Room for All — when we look back to where we were a few years ago, we see so much positive change — hearts and minds are changing and there is hope for the realization of a fully inclusive RCA in our lifetime,