Rainbow Sunday

Today (16th March 2014) is Rainbow Sunday, an initiative started by Inclusive Church to celebrate and affirm LGBT people in our churches. At the church where I am children’s minister, we marked Rainbow Sunday in Ark, our children’s group, with discussion, stories, prayer, and the creation of a beautiful rainbow altar frontal. Then we took our altar frontal into church, put it on the altar, and I had about a minute to talk to the congregation about what we had been doing and why.

All Saints has sometimes tended to keep our message of inclusion “under the radar”, as a colleague put it this morning, occasionally mentioning sexuality as an afterthought in a list of groups we are not excluding, but “not making a big thing of it”. Our congregation is in every sense a broad church, and I am aware that there is a very wide range of views on this subject. Today felt a bit like sticking my head above the parapet!

This is (roughly) what I said:

“Today is Rainbow Sunday, the day in the church calendar set aside for affirming and celebrating LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans*) people in the church. The rainbow, as we know from the story of Noah, is a sign of hope. It has long been used as a symbol by the gay community to represent the hope of equality, a brighter future, and the right to be and to celebrate who God made each person to be.

The church does not have a good track record when it comes to how we have treated gay people.  Too often our brothers and sisters have been hurt and rejected simply because of who they, these precious children of God, are.  Still, when equal marriage becomes a reality at the end of this month, same sex couples won’t be able to get married in this church, to experience that joyful celebration and blessing of their love as part of the body of Christ. Still our church leaders are too slow and too hesitant to speak out against the support shown by some of their African counterparts for violently homophobic laws.

Still, in so many ways, the church fails to be the face of God’s justice and love. And I believe God weeps for that.

At Ark this morning we’ve been looking at the last two verses of today’s gospel reading, which N will read for us [John 3.16-17]. Everyone who believes inherits eternal life. Jesus came not as judge but as saviour. How can we hear those words and not be moved to do our bit to right the wrongs done to our LGBT brothers and sisters?

And so today we are making this small start. We are saying that discrimination is never the will of God, and that in this church we will not accept it. We are saying that there is nothing about anyone that is not fearfully and wonderfully made by God. And we are celebrating in all the colours of the rainbow the fabulously diverse group of people God calls us to be.”

 Then the vicar led us in this prayer, which I wrote for the occasion:

“Loving God,

We thank you that each of us is made in your likeness

And that every aspect of ourselves is a gift from you.

Help us to celebrate and treasure each other

As your precious children.

We thank you for the rich diversity of sexuality and gender

And pray that we may come to value one another

And support each other

As we grow more and more into the people you made us to be.

We thank you for the example of creativity and love

Shown by our children today

And ask that we may all face you and each other

With the openness and honesty of a child.

May your church become ever more like Jesus,

Filled with the generous love of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.”

Here’s a picture of the altar frontal:

Image

And finally, a quote from one of the children who helped make it: “it’s to show everyone who comes into our church that God loves them just how they are”.

 

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3 thoughts on “Rainbow Sunday

  1. Thank you.

    [ And as for the words of one of your young persons – never has this gospel passage chimed so clearly:
    “I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” ]

  2. Just come across your blog. This is an interesting read and I appreciate your bravery. I believe that as Christians we need to love and not judge others, but that it is possible to love someone without condoning their lifestyle choice, and that disagreeing with someone doesn’t have to equate to a condemning attitude towards them. My question is how do you reconcile total acceptance of homosexual practice with passages of the Bible like Romans 1 and the old testament laws that are very harsh about homosexuality? I don’t mean this as an attack. It’s a sincere question as I’m genuinely interested in how you’ve worked through these things.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment, and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

      As you will no doubt realise, there is always a number of possible ways of interpreting specific passages of scripture. I, in common with many other Christians, believe that the passages which have traditionally used to condemn homosexuality can and should be interpreted in other ways, in light of the what the Bible as a whole reveals about God, and the ongoing revelation of God to his church through the Spirit.

      You might find it helpful to read some specific bible studies on those passages. The ones offered here by Accepting Evangelicals are good, and deal specifically with both Romans and the Old Testament legal passages: http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/resources/ This puts it rather better than I probably could!

      I think it is helpful to remember, when we see people using a few specific Bible passages to defend the marginalisation of LGBT people, that scripture has also been used selectively to defend all sorts of things in the past which most would now condemn, including slavery, apartheid, and the beating of children in schools.

      I believe that the word of God contained in the Bible is not an instruction manual, but a living word which we need to engage with thoughtfully and prayerfully. I also do not believe that it is the sole way in which God reveals himself in the world.

      I hope this is some help as you continue to engage with this issue.

      Ruth

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