I first posted the following meditation on the day after Christmas 2010. I also posted it at my travel blog site, Never in Paradise, with the title "Welcoming Churches and Homeless Wayfarers." It seems to me appropriate to re-post this brief meditation now, as a statement about the discussion taking place in my Catholic church at present, regarding whether the church can or should welcome those who are gay. I wrote this from London on Christmas eve 2010:
Our first stop when we exit the Piccadilly Circus tube station: St. James church, a Christopher Wren church. We hope its little flea market is open, but it's not, on Christmas eve.
We go into the church. I'm impressed by a welcome sign in the narthex: "A warm welcome from the church community of St. James, Piccadilly. St. James is part of the Anglican Communion within the world-wide Christian Church. We understand ourselves to be called: to gather as a body which welcomes and celebrates human diversity — including spirituality, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation . . . ."
And so I feel welcome as I walk into this church. As I don't in almost any Catholic church today. Because my church almost never posts such a welcome statement in its entranceways. And its notion of universality and inclusivity and diversity is now, effectively, to give solace and harbor to homophobes. While telling me and mine, effectively, that we're unwelcome.
And then we go inside and walk down the north nave of the church, and I see a man bent over in a posture of profound prayer. I hope I haven't disturbed him.
And then I see one man after another in the pews of that side of the church, lying down, huddled over, sitting. And I realize they're homeless, and are gathered in that part of the church because its heaters are located there.
And what a novel thing, to find a welcoming Christian church celebrating Christmas by providing homeless people a place to warm themselves and rest on a very cold London Christmas eve.
The video: Bill Brickey and Sue Demel of the Old Town School of Folk Music singing the old spiritual, "I'm Going to Sit at the Welcome Table."