I am too old to pussy-foot around when it is time to speak up or to do the right thing. I am too old to care about procedures, policy, or protocol; and I am certainly too old to ask for permission. Remember the old saying, “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission?” In doing God’s work, I have seldom had to ask for God’s forgiveness when applying that rule.
The priest Of Grace Episcopal Church recently decided to have the shrubbery between the church building and the street mowed down. I heartily agree with that action. Everyone knew of the stone church with the Big Red Door, but the rest of the church hid from view. I felt it was like an enclave, a place to practice my faith separated from the harshness of the rest of the world. Being hidden or at least partially obscured from view, I could express my beliefs without having to defend them to the masses.
Well, bunk on that. The whole ‘grace trumps evil’ episode of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, last year, brought me out from hiding. I was so outspoken about the issue, I was actually asked by Facebook staff, if I would like to be permanently removed from Facebook. Of course, I said, “yes.” But, I was also disappointed when the diocese of Western North Carolina, much less my own church, opted NOT to ‘join the choir’ in support of the campaign against hate. They supported the AME church financially, but, to my way of thinking, were conspicuously quiet.
Since then, my beloved Grace Episcopal Church has displayed a banner produced for a booth for the former annual festival, Bele Chere, that reads “GOD LOVES YOU. NO EXCEPTIONS.” I love it. I absolutely love it. But, believe it or not, there were objections to the placement of the banner in the yard of the church…by members of the church.
There was a decision before Christmas, to no longer carry on the tradition of creating and presenting shoe boxes of toys and goodies to needy children for fear that ‘my’ church may be mistakenly believed to be affiliated with a controversially-opinionated relative of Billy Graham. What? My old-age voice cries out, “Then use hat boxes! Use milk crates from Ingles! Use beige plastic grocery sacks! But don’t punish the children! They don’t care who promotes a similar campaign!”
For God’s sake (and I mean this literally) let’s remember what is important. Saint Paul’s reputation as a Jewish Law-abiding Roman citizen was toast when he repented and began his campaign to convince his fellow Jews, as well as the Gentiles, of the truth of Jesus and the gospel. The Episcopal Church, and it’s people, are often so afraid of saying the wrong thing, that they don’t say anything at all. Fine. Actions often speak louder than words anyway, so the removal of the shrubbery from in front of the church on Merrimon Avenue is a very positive statement, as far as I am concerned; it says “this church is Here, available, open, and, as a beacon on the hill, a place for anyone to find help, answers, God, forgiveness, peace, community, loving-kindness, connection,…the stuff people are looking for.”
But, I am not done. I have stuck my nose in someone else’s business. This may come back to burn me, but I doubt it. When I was unjustly fired last August, after working for at least 22 separate branches of a very large company for 8 years, no one in the company spoke out in my defense. No One.
Well, now, I find a dear friend’s hard work is coming into question and I have no intention of remaining quiet. I will not elaborate, but I do not care what anyone thinks about how I have voiced my opinion. Plus, I am hoping others will follow my example, and will stop being so afraid to speak up and will cry, “Foul!” when it is appropriate.
Truth be told, I am leaving my beloved church; I have moved out of the state. I have yet to find a new church ‘home;’ I am in somewhat of a holding pattern, circling the airport, so, in a way, this is my parting shot.
I love so many people at Grace Episcopal Church. They have prayed for me, healed me, hugged me, held me while I cried, held my hand as I walked back to God, fed me, and helped me move. I pray that God as Holy Spirit intervenes and leads the people to a miraculous renewal of strength and voice. And I commend to the members of that church, using the words of a most beloved inspirational speaker, Dabo Swinney, “Bring your own Guts,” and “To God, be all the Glory.”