Today at church we celebrated Pride Sunday. I was asked to share a little about what the inclusivity of our church means to me, and this is what I said.

This first time I visited this church, I was a little bit lost. Nearly all of the things that I had built my faith on and around had crumbled. I had realized that somewhere along the way, the relentless, fathomless love of God that had wooed me was being made into something small and hard and cold by human hands. It was being forced into tight little boxes that were handed out to people who were deemed worthy, while so many others went without. Vital and life-giving parts of the body of Christ were purposefully broken and discarded, and it was called love…except that it wasn’t love. It wasn’t even human love, much less the love of God. If the love of God could be so mangled by those hands, how could I hold on to anything else they had handed me over the years? And so it all fell away, except for two things that I could not let go of: I love God, and God loves everyone.

When I walked in these doors for the first time, I had those two slightly crumpled and well-worn things clenched in my fists and the tiniest glimmer of hope in my heart. I was by myself, which was completely out of character for me, and everything was foreign to me except that running underneath it all were the same truths I was clinging to. God was loved here and here, God’s love was for everyone. God’s love was not small or cold; it was big and breathtaking and it spilled out onto everyone. Everyone was welcome and everyone was loved. I can’t really find the right words for stumbling into the kind of miracle I had nearly given up on, but that’s what I experienced that day, and what I have experienced over and over and over again since. You all have turned that tiny glimmer of hope into a flame. You have been the answer to a prayer I could never have found the words to pray. Here, the body of Christ is for everyone, as it should be. Gay or straight, cis or trans, it makes no difference. Here we are loved and we are love, for each other and for the wider world. Here, we are reminded to make the circle bigger, to open our hearts ever wider and to let this love rush out past us and beyond these doors, because it is meant for everyone. Here, everyone’s gifts are celebrated and given space to grow. Here, we mend and we pray and we laugh and we cry and we sing and we break the bread and drink the cup. Here, everyone is welcome at the table, always. I hope the miracle of it never stops breaking my heart wide open.

Several weeks ago, my kids were baptized here and one of the most moving things about it all was that when you all promised to love them and guide them, I knew you meant it. There are no asterisks or silent caveats to love here. Words are not big enough to hold the feeling of knowing that whoever my kids grow up to be and whoever they love, they will forever have the love that grows here…that it will be the roots that hold them fast as they bloom into themselves; that they will always have people reminding them that they are God’s beloved, that they bear God’s image, and that they were crafted by love and for love to be exactly who they are. They will never need to carve away pieces of themselves to belong here or to be lifted up by your love. It makes my heart sing to know that Josie’s first definition of church will be love and radical welcome, encircled by all kinds of humans who are all equally valued, included, and cherished, and who cherish her, no matter who she grows up to be. God’s love will be boundless and wild for her, as it is meant to be for all of us. And it is one of the greatest miracles of my life that I get to stand in the flow of that unstoppable love alongside all of you.