Raised in the ELCA, I now lie somewhere between Quaker and Lutheran with little offshoots of admiration for a handful of other faith traditions. I have to say what drew me to the 99 Collective is the same thing that has always impressed me about the Lutheran church. Lutherans feel a strong sense of responsibility to welcome the stranger.
I remember sitting in church the Sunday after September 11, 2001, when a Muslim man, Salman, went to the pulpit and begged forgiveness for the terrorist attacks. Salman’s personal witness to the peacefulness of 99% of Muslims began a beautiful relationship between the local mosque, synagogue, and my home church, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, NM. Many congregant friends continue this hospitality at St. Paul, welcoming families from India, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Mexico. But, most importantly, they do this not as a one-time gesture. For them, welcome is an invitation to relationship.
A few years later, St. Paul took its next big step in affirming welcome through bold action. I can’t tell you how meaningful it was to march in the Pride Parade with members of my congregation in 2009. At a time when we were losing members for our choice to become Reconciling in Christ (a church that openly welcomes and affirms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people), my church was emboldened to stand behind the Gospel of love for all God’s children.
I won’t pretend my church is perfect. No doubt many have felt unwelcome; but we’re moving forward. In this journey of welcome, we move toward the communion of faith God calls us to embody.