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:
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.
Here’s a picture of the altar frontal:
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”.