Our Presence Matters

June 2024

It took some courage to walk up to our church’s booth at BBH Pride Fest and say “I’m kinda looking for a church.” The 15-year-old from Broadview Heights explained that she had been very active in her church her whole life, but after she came out as gay “They didn’t let me keep coming to youth group because they said I was a danger to the other kids.” Even so, her faith was still important to her. “When I came out nothing changed about me. I still love Jesus.”

After the event, our Youth Director, Dana Schwendeman, shared a photo from Pride Fest on her Instagram account and soon got a message from someone she knew at the church where she grew up. How is it that Brecksville UMC could be at a Pride event?

Dana shared about our church’s journey to becoming a reconciling and inclusive church. Her old friend asked “What’s the catch? Is it a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ sort of thing?” Dana could sense the hurt this friend experienced when her church had not been supportive when she and her girlfriend (now wife) attended.

Our church celebrates LGBTQ people and includes them in the full life of the church. Dana shared some of the ways we do that, and that we believes they are a necessary and beautiful part of the Body of Christ. “She was blown away. My friend said that she and her wife will be visiting on Sunday. I was so happy!”

Those who have felt harm from the church in the past may wonder if we really mean it when we say that God’s love is unconditional, that God loves all people “even if and no matter what.” Our presence at Pride is an open door – an opportunity for conversations to begin and for questions to be answered.

As Pastor Heidi shared in her message on June 2, “Again and again throughout scripture, Jesus shows us that true, Godly love isn’t easy. It’s not passive. It doesn’t take the path of least resistance. Rather, it’s taking the path of excellence. Loving God with our whole self, with ‘all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind’ is demanding and risky.”

Let’s give thanks to God for a love like that.

Submitted by Melanie Smith