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  • Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: The Power of Pin-5.2.24

Lately, the joint has been jumping. Have you noticed that our pews are getting a little fuller? That folks are bringing friends to church on Sunday? That there are wonderful new faces in the mix at fellowship hour?

As the old spiritual goes “there’s a sweet, sweet feeling in this place…”

I felt it in our Awesome Communion Sunday last week, when our youngsters proudly wore their stoles and sang about how Jesus took the bread and said, “Remember me.” I also saw it in our Confirmation students who spent a late night on Saturday — group juggling, praying in the dark, and making a beautiful painting together of the people of God.

I know that Pentecost isn’t until May 19, but it seems like the Holy Spirit is getting a head start this year.

This Sunday, I especially look forward to our Welcome Luncheon when all are invited to get to know those who have joined us anew this year. Some, we have formally welcomed on Come 4th Sunday. Others we’re still meeting. The Welcome Team has planned activities and conversation starters, so we get to know one another better. And our new nametags will help us remember those names week after week.

Last year we identified welcome as a community charism, a gift that God has given us that is meant for others. Welcome is more than making sure someone gets in the door and finds a seat. It’s a spirit of open heartedness that invites people again and again to learn more, go deeper, join in, and take the risk of coming as they are.

You may have noticed that in addition to the nametags hanging on the strings in the entrance to the worship space, there are baskets filled with small buttons that contain pronouns – he/him, she/her, they/them.  Clarifying pronouns is a pretty new practice for old heads like me.  But it is something that our young people are adept at, and they actually rely on us to learn and appreciate that skill as well. At a recent Confirmation class, I asked the kids if they ever had to explain to an adult why getting someone’s pronouns right is important or had to describe the difference between sexuality and gender to an older person. Every single one nodded.

This is your charism, I told them, one of the gifts you bring to us as church. Because as our children negotiate identity bravely, courageously, deftly, they are teaching us how to welcome in ways that stretch our old assumptions, that point out the sticking places. They are patient with us. They also want to be assured that how they identify – whether it’s he/him, she/her, they/them or a combination -- is welcome and beloved.

Which is why doing the difficult work of stumbling over pronouns when they don’t seem to match our expectations is an important act of welcome.  I often make mistakes in this. I’m learning how to correct myself and try again.

Those little pins remind us that there is much in a name that we can’t assume. They invite us to join the conversation.  They are one more way to extend welcome, and to be welcomed into new ways of lifting up one another’s dignity. Pinning one on is a sign of goodwill, and that can speak volumes.

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