October saw two major activities at Pacific Beach UMC in support of our ministry to the LGBT community. In the first activity Saturday, October 10, couples participated in the Love for All recommitment ceremony in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision to extend marriage equality to same gender couples. The following Saturday, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) conducted a workshop for members of area churches who want to see their churches become reconciling.
Nine same gender and traditional couples renewed their vows in the sanctuary, with Pastor Bob Rhodes and Rev. Mandy Flemming, Laguna Beach UMC, officiating. Blessing of the marriages culminated with Holy Communion. Pacific Beach was one of four churches in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference to hold ceremonies that day.
Rev. Israel (Izzy) Alvaran, Western Regional Organizer for RMN, told participants at the “Building an Inclusive Community” workshop a reconciling community need not begin at the church level. Rather it all starts with a small group of people, a Sunday school class, a youth group or a smaller service. Most important the process toward reconciliation cannot be rushed. Everyone must be given a chance to be heard. He guided the group through a 12-step process RMN has developed.
Izzy passed along advice that would be good for all of us to remember as we work in ministry. He said to “know your trigger and when someone hits it.” We all have an issue that pushes us to anger. When that happens, we need to give ourselves permission to withdraw, cool off and take care of ourselves.
Izzy also talked to the group about process coaching. Coaches are needed to work with communities as they move forward along the reconciling process.
Those from Pacific Beach, already a long-time RMN church, took time to list suggestions for additional steps to take.
- Maintain a consistent presence in San Diego’s annual Pride activities. Pacific Beach marched in the parade and staffed a booth at the festival in July after not participating for several years.
- Explore opportunities in other LGBT events where our participation could be fruitful.
- Increase outreach to the trans community. A part of this step is to brainstorm how to do it. One suggestion is to change bathroom signs in ways that are friendlier to gender identity.
- Consider how to attract younger same gender couples and their families. Long-term members of the church noted we seem to have fewer same gender couples with children than in past years. Are we doing something to make that so?
- Offer our support for congregations that are considering becoming reconciling.
Besides Pacific Beach, churches represented at the workshop included La Mesa First UMC, University UMC in Irvine, Water’s Edge congregation at First UMC, St. Paul’s UMC, and Mission Hills UMC, which recently voted to become reconciling.