Talk given to a PFLAG group in Montana on October 11, 2006
Hi, my name is Becky Taylor and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here and I’m excited to share something that means a lot to me – first I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a lay-person, I’m not a minister or employed by the church. My husband Doug & I have been married for 30 years. We have 2 kids (well, technically, they’re not really kids anymore). Our daughter is 26, she’s married and has a 20 month old and we’re expecting grandbaby number two next month! They live in Bozeman, so they’re not too far away. Our son is almost 21, he’s single and just moved from Billings to Great Falls. I don’t work outside the home right now – I was the primary caregiver for my Mom, who lived with us for 6 1/2 years and just passed away in July. I was blessed to have wonderful, supportive parents who helped me understand God’s unconditional love… and they were all about helping other people experience it. I’d like to carry on that tradition.
Why PFLAG? Well, a gay friend of mine once shared that he was in his 30s before someone from the church told him that he was NOT A MISTAKE! That hurts my heart. He’s not a mistake! He’s a unique creation of our loving God and it’s shameful that the church, in his life wounded him so deeply! I love the Gandhi quote, “you must be the change you want to see in the world!”
So that’s who I am and why I’m here tonight, that and because I want to share this journey I’ve been on with you! This part of the adventure began several years ago when I was on a worship team that was involved in planning a midweek service for a traditional church. Lots of people find a home in traditional church, but… many don’t, in fact a staggering number don’t. We wanted to offer another option.
Maybe you’ve experienced how superficial relationships can be on Sunday morning around the coffee urn, or at work. You know how those conversations go:
“Hi how are you?”
“I’m fine, how are you?”
They’re not really fine at all; they’re hurting and wounded… but somehow, we just don’t go deeper. Anyway, the team had a vision for a way of “being church”; one that was more about relationships than program, more about dialogue than preaching, more about diversity and inclusiveness than doctrine. This was a vision of people gathering together to experience community and share life – where we could experience God’s healing in a safe environment, truly nurture each other and encourage one another in growth. Where we could be intentional about being a reflection of God’s love and sharing a message of hope! Not just an “Open and Affirming” group or a group where people are accepted, but more than that – where each person is welcomed and celebrated as unique and precious and feels a deep personal relationship with God and those who care. Some folks question why we love them so much. We believe that’s God’s vision for the church! After all, John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world” not God loved only those who say the right things or act a certain way!
Well, we developed friendships and really connected through this dream, this vision, that God had laid on our hearts. In fact, the dream was so strong that it led two of us to church planter training in San Francisco.
Throughout the week of training, we kept talking about our excitement about this “new thing” that God was doing in Billings, Montana and our commitment to it – we’d say things like, “I wonder who God’s going to send to help make this vision happen?” We’ll stand behind whoever God calls to do this…by the end of the week; we’d figured out that it was us! We were the ones God was calling!
Meanwhile, God was changing my thinking in other ways. I’d been involved in church forever. I grew up in the church, was baptized, and got married in the church. I was active in lots of different programs, on committees….the whole thing. Busy, busy, busy. Totally focused on doing good stuff – or at least trying to do what was right. So many important good things to do, so many expectations and so little time to get everything done – maybe you can relate to that.
One morning, during personal Bible study, I found myself questioning whether all those “things” I was doing really mattered. I mean, what was the point? Was I really accomplishing anything? It all seemed endless, fruitless. I saw tasks; duties and responsibilities. And how could all these worthwhile things I was doing be so frustrating? Where was my joy, my hope? Well, that’s when I had an encounter with God! It’s hard to describe, but the closest I can come is this – how many of you have kids?
Well, I remember when my kids were little and they wanted my attention – I’d be focused on something else, multitasking, you know – trying to do a bazillion things at once. And my kids would put their little hands on my face and just turn me to them – Hey Mom! Look at me! I’m doing something cool and I want you to see! I need you! I love you! Focus on me – I have something important to tell you! Pay attention to me!
And, all of a sudden, it was like God was turning my face and saying those exact things! Look at me! I’m doing something cool that I want you to see! You’re always so focused on what you’re doing. Pay attention to me! Take time with Me! I love you! I need you! I want my priorities to be your priorities! Focus on me. I have something important to tell you! Wow! It was powerful. Turn yourself to me! Change your focus! Whew!
Well, I wasn’t too sure what all that meant in my life, but it did make me stop and think! What about all the things I thought were so important? Weren’t they important to God? Apparently not when they were consuming my thoughts and so much of my time – focus on Me. So, I slowed down and started listening. What, in my life, really mattered to God? What was I doing that brought me closer to God’s heart? (Well, not much because I was so distracted!) How could I make God’s priorities my priorities? Well, first I’d have to figure out what those priorities were, then I’d have to change my focus and imagine the possibilities.
Back to the group – God worked in the group and we started thinking about what this new thing might look like… and asking ourselves the question – “If we could start from scratch and do only what mattered to God, what would we be doing?” If we focused on God’s vision – of love and longing to be in relationship – the answer seemed to be, imagine the possibilities, then get with it and create this community that you’re dreaming about. So we began the process of figuring out who we were and what we were about and trying to focus on God’s priorities. Our vision was to be a nurturing Christian community, welcoming seekers and embracing those who are hurting by providing a safe spiritual home. We decided that we exist to strengthen, encourage and renew hope in the promise of God’s love by making a difference in the lives of others through loving relationships. And we knew that it was HUGE that we welcome and celebrate all people as special children of God! Since we wanted to be the change that we hoped to see, we began making the vision a reality and developing a community of faith!
When we met together, we shared a meal and visions for the future, participated in Bible study and discussions, prayed, sang, shared the Lord’s Supper, and reached out beyond ourselves in service. Rather than a bunch of rules or a rigid structure, we developed some Circle Principles for our time together that include things like: Listen with compassion, without an agenda / no one has all the answers, we’re on this journey together / keep the confidence of the circle.
Then, using the circle principles as our guide for the gatherings, we lived out the Seeker’s Harbor vision and mission, and experienced community in a “church without walls”.
Just so that you don’t think we’re some kind of cult, we are recognized by The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as a church in formation. (The Disciples partner with the UCC a lot) I won’t go into a history of the Disciples of Christ now, but I encourage you to check out the “Discover the Disciples” brochures that I brought and the Disciples website. Also the Glad Alliance site (Gay, Lesbian & Affirming Disciples).
Our Seeker’s Harbor site is up with the first page and we plan to add more soon with links, pictures and hopefully a blog.
Well, when one couple’s marriage fell apart, our leadership core experienced some changes and the community suffered some setbacks. So, now we’re in a time of re-grouping. Because God is still saying “Focus on Me and Imagine the possibilities.” I’d like to invite you to imagine the possibilities – imagine people in healthy relationships, living and growing in caring community – to heal brokenness, mend relationships, and build bridges. This is nothing new – it’s what Jesus and the Disciples did. God shares dreams for us many times in the Bible, one of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
In addition to sharing with you by inviting you to participate in Seeker’s Harbor through connecting in a small group and opportunities to experience community in our monthly gatherings, we’re actively looking for core leaders who feel a sense of call to commit to helping with the leadership of this ministry!
Either way, there’s a place for you – for your needs and your gifts – in this vision.
Imagine the possibilities…God’s plan of good for your future. Imagine the possibilities…the hope of being included in that incredible love. Imagine God’s dream. Imagine a celebration of diversity. Let’s make that dream a reality!