This past weekend, four young men from All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena made the long drive to Fresno, California on a mission of love. Oh, yes, and cookies.
Their goal: to visit St. James Cathedral on Sunday, meet the parishioners, and "be an example of how we understand God's message."
Kevin explains: "The trip was kind of a reaction to a sermon from our rector, Ed Bacon, about love. Love being active and the difficult part in showing love to those who are not nice to you ... So, we wanted to go to one of the churches that was pulling away from TEC [The Episcopal Church] and was not welcoming to gay people. It is easier to not like someone that you have never met or don't know. It is easier to not like someone that you have no personal connection. Maybe, just maybe, we can help push that to a little less of an extreme."
So, Kevin, Andy, David and Nelson piled into their car and drove over two hundred miles to do just that, with a basket of chocolate chip cookies, done up in little cellophane bags with messages of hope and inclusion .
But first, before they went to St. James for the 10:30 service, they visited Holy Family for our eight-o'clock service. Afterwards, at Coffee Hour, we talked about how important it is to make connections; that bigotry can only thrive when it is faceless and impersonal. Once you find out that gay cookies are good cookies, in fact, that they are no different from "straight" cookies, perhaps the barriers of accepting those cookies will collapse, and we'll have a cookie jar filled with all kinds of cookies of all shapes and sizes.
Sure, it's a metaphor. But I happen to think it's a pretty good one.
Kevin reports that the people at St. James were very pleasant, and seemed to like the cookies, and read the messages.
Our visitors also came bearing a message of consolation for Holy Family, whose congregation, wishing to remain in the Episcopal Church, has felt isolated in a Diocese intending to break away.
In an e-mail after the visit, Kevin put it very eloquently:
"While we recognize we don’t have a full understanding of what you have been going through, we have a much deeper appreciation for what an island of hope, peace and inclusion the community has created at Holy Family and the blessed people that are there.
We want to extend our thanks for the warm welcome we received from everyone at Holy Family. I know it is an experience that will be with us for a long time. We also want to thank you for your support – as a church and individuals making a stand for a fully inclusive message of God’s love."
Their parish, All Saints, is a thriving one, with an average Sunday attendance of about 1,000 in two services. I hope that some day soon we can make the trip down and pay a visit there. And bring some cookies.