I love the BV Strong Community Dinner! Once again, we gathered around countless (ever-growing) tables – numerous smiling faces of all ages, and shared a meal together on a beautiful fall night. The mountains, river, creeks, clouds and sun rays circled around and embraced our rows of tables, chairs, place-settings, casseroles, salads, desserts, refreshments of all kinds. It was glorious!
Clarke and I have been invited to join our friends from a neighboring church each year, and we make new friends every time. I love the interfaith and ecumenical nature of that piece alone and wish we gathered around the table more than once a year with other congregations and community groups.
I love that other towns have adopted our delightful idea, and are hosting their own community dinners right down the center of town. I love that we are reminded, in the midst of this great event, that the Johnson family is the reason we all came together to begin with, and that we must never forget them and their family still in our midst and hearts – no matter how big the event becomes.
And, as I love all these things about our community and take them to heart, my heart also hurts and remembers that not everyone truly feels welcome at our table. Not every soul is warmly invited, embraced and included in Buena Vista all year long – much less at the one-time-a-year BV Strong Dinner.
I remember, with pain, all the comments I have heard or seen in writing throughout the year about people in the minority – whether color, race, religion, life or faith background, orientation, gender expression or social status. Those disparaging words disturb me to my core. Friends who are not in the “mainstream” have told me over the years that it’s extremely difficult to live in this valley as an LGBTQ person, a person of color or practicing a religion other than one particular stream of Christianity.
And I weep. Our BV Strong community is not as strong as it might be. And should be. For our tables, however plentiful, do not include everyone. Too many have been told – in subtle and outright ways – that they can’t “come as you are” to the Table.
Last March, Grace Church in BV wrote a beautiful article for this Faith Page about their own traditions of welcome, in spite of the national denomination’s exclusive and damaging edicts. Heartfelt kudos to you, our Grace Church brothers and sisters. You proclaimed a different message right here: “Grace Church is an inclusive congregation which welcomes all people without regard to sexual orientation. Grace is an open, welcoming and inclusive place where members strive to follow the Holy Spirit, serve in a spirit of boundless love and act out of Christian conscience rather than fear or conformity.”
Buena Vista, we have work to do if we are to be truly strong. If our community dinner, our community life all year long, our schools, our social groups, our kids’ clubs, our neighborhoods, even our businesses are to truly reflect our whole community – not just some, but all who wish to call this home.
May this coming year be one of even more places at the table, for a multi-colored tapestry of humanity – not just at the BV Strong Dinner, but in every aspect of our community. Then we will truly be strong, sharing life and spirit together.
Rev. Rebecca Kemper Poos is the pastor of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Buena Vista and president of the Collegiate Peaks Forum Series. She and hubby Clarke are involved in a number of community groups and activities in this beautiful community. See www.bvcucc.org and www.collegiatepeaksforum.org for more info.