I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be More Light more than I usually do (which, to be honest, is quite a bit).
The first reason is that the church I hold so dear is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary of being a More Light church. (Quick catchup: More Light is a movement within the Presbyterian church that works for being open to and affirming of the LGBT community.) Sixth was the first church is Pittsburgh and the second in Pennsylvania to take on this official designation. As part of what we’re stretching into a year-long celebration, I’ve been working on gathering stories from members of the church—both why they made this bold move at the time and what it means to currently be a member of a More Light church.
I already feel wildly blessed to be a part of my church. Every Sunday, I know that I am in a loving community. Hell, even when I’m sitting at the traffic light at the intersection where the church sits (an intersection which, more often than not, provokes rage in all who are stuck there), I take a moment to be thankful for having that space and those people in my life. (A positive note about that intersection: it is demonstrative of what I love about Squirrel Hill in general: Sixth, the JCC, the library, and ice cream—all right there.) Even as I find myself in an emotional traffic jam over Mary Louise leaving, I still try to make a space in my heart for gratitude and pray for an openness for what might be next.
But hearing the stories of the people with whom I sit (and, in the summer, sweat) in the pews every Sunday—what power. These men and women are so brave in standing up for what they believed to be true to their faith and acting in accordance with the message they preach.
Church this morning was busy. Mary Louise is gone. The General Assembly is in town. Visitors and members alike packed the pews with not much more than two fans in the back to keep everyone cool. (I’m awkward enough that I apologize for my sweaty back when people hug me during the passing of the peace.) In front of the church, we had a new banner (made by one of the many wildly talented members of the congregation). She had also made whatever the word is for what hangs from the pulpits. Simply beautiful. Around the sanctuary, there were 50 stoles from the Shower of Stoles project, which Joanna, the head of the More Light committee, had brought in for both our church and the GA. The soon-to-be-former head of the national More Light movement, Michael Adee, preached. (You guys, if you’re ever given the opportunity to hear him—go. Even if you’re not religious, he’s a great storyteller.) During the offering, the Pittsburgh Renaissance City Choir sang. It was just a service full of the many good things religion can give us when we allow it to.
A little while back, a friend of mine emailed me to see if I wanted to work a booth during GA for a group that’s like a “more moderate More Light.” I sat with that email for a while because my immediate response surprised me, which, upon further thought, surprised me that it surprised me. Her email was, in fact, the second time I had seen More Light put on a radical end of a spectrum, something that took me aback the first time I saw it (though the article was a decade old and thus the designation was given better context).
The thing that got me about my friend’s email was also what Adee preached this morning: it seems so simple. I have a very difficult time reconciling that people can say they are part of a faith that proclaims a very radical love and then not actually give that love. (I’ve tried to work my way through another side of this, trying to see that, if you were to view homosexuality as a sin, then it would be with radical love that you try to keep people from actively sinning, but I can’t make it happen. It just doesn’t sit well.)
So a more moderate More Light? I can’t reconcile it. Whe I think of More Light, I think of this love that has no bounds. And to make a moderate version is to say that you’re still loving with boundaries.
I don’t want to love with boundaries. That’s the whole point.
I struggle greatly, as we all do, with compassion, with how to exercise love of all kinds in my daily, moment-by-moment life. But part of what helps me through those moments, those days, is what I see every Sunday as I sit sweaty-backed in a pew, surrounded by people who felt love so strong, they couldn’t hold it back.
I leave you with this passage from Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates:
“[Martin Luther King, Jr.] concluded the learned discourse that came to be known as the ‘loving your enemies’ sermon this way: ‘So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’
Go ahead and reread that. That is hands down the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical thing a human being can say. And it comes from reading the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical civics lesson ever taught, when Jesus of Nazareth went to a hill in Galilee and told his disciples, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.’”