How do you receive a congregation back into the denomination that expelled it 17 years ago (22, if you count the suspension)? How does the congregation mark such an event? These are the questions that First United now faces as we begin to plan for the Service of Reconciliation & Healing that will take place on October 14th.
Since making the decision to hold a service, we’ve identified several ingredients that we feel must be part of the event.
- The service has to acknowledge the painfulness of the past. As much as everyone wants to ‘move on,’ the wounds of an action like an expulsion cannot be dismissed as simply ‘ancient history.’
- Having said that, we also want to acknowledge the possibility of reconciliation and healing presented to us. Wounds can be healed, even if scars will always remain. Reconciliation can happen when people come together because of and in spite of their history.
- We believe that this kind of hope can be held out to all those who have been hurt by the church in some way. Many people have felt marginalized, excommunicated, shunned, or just plain hurt by actions of their church – for many different reasons. As difficult as the reconciliation process can be, it is a way of truth and integrity into a healthy future.
- We also want to acknowledge the resilience and faithfulness of the congregation during its time as an independent Lutheran church. First United has continued to be committed to issues of justice, and to being a voice of progressive Christianity in San Francisco. And now, having moved in with St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, we are looking forward to exploring what this new partnership can be.
- Finally, we are happy to have this occasion to host all the people of good will who have been so encouraging and supportive of us through the years and through this discernment process. As a colleague exclaimed at our last clergy meeting, “It’s time for a party!”
Now we just have to plan the service. You can be sure that it will showcase the creative, inclusive, interfaith-friendly, progressive spirit of First United.