There is a Christian magazine called Sojourners which is filled with stories and reflections on how we put out faith in Christ into action for social justice. I feel "social justice" has become a bit loaded as a term these days. But as a group of people whose Teacher, Lord and Savior taught us "Blessed are the poor," I believe we're called to continually reclaim the meaning and hope of social justice.
Sojourners recently ran an article about a ten year-old transgender boy who is a member of All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, CA. It was written by his mother, Dani Gabriel. These are all people I know and love, because I worshiped and served with them for nearly 3 years. In the heart of the story was this question that Samson asked his priest, the Rev. Liz Tichenor, as he was transitioning publicly. "Can I be baptized again?"
Samson wanted to know if he was really fully a part of the church. Liz responded, "No, we baptized you already, and that stuck. But we can do something special." And so it was that a while later, after much conversation and prayer and support from liturgists and their bishop, All Souls Parish welcomed Samson again, and deeper, into the church with a rite of renaming.
In our peculiarly Episcopal way, this rite took deliberation and broad support, and because of that Samson also knew that he wasn't supported just by his own church or own pastor, but by the whole Church. One, holy, catholic and apostolic, with a full blessing for Samson.
And in the middle of all that, here's the image that most caught me: Just before the worship began that morning, Tripp Hudgins, a 45 year-old, straight, white, ordained, man from Virginia, with all the cultural privilege in the world, knelt down in front of Samson, and helped Samson straighten his bowtie.
That image is the Church.
With all our authority, power, beauty, history, privilege and learnedness, we are called to kneel at the foot of our smallest neighbor, who is asking "Can I be baptized again? Am I really part of the church?", in order to help them boldly take their next step closer to God.
This week St. Andrew's held its sixth year of Marking Your Mark Art Camp. The theme has been "We are the Village." And what kind of Village? The Village of God. The Church. Twenty-four 3rd-5th graders have been loved, taught and emboldened by over 50 different adults who have taken all their power and authority and come into our church and knelt at the children's' feet. We have welcomed these children from diverse parts of our community. We have given them guidance and then asked them what response (in art, play, music, words) is in their hearts. And then we have borne witness.
We have been present to hear them speak, in their own ways, their recommitment to Love, to their true Selves, and to Community.
This is the Church.
This is what I signed up to be a part of. This is social justice. This is the Village that gathers to praise and emulate the God who knelt down among us as Jesus. Who came down from the heavens to straighten our bowtie, and get us ready for Love.