Seeing Trees

This sermon was originally preached at Tabernacle United Church on April 22, 2001 as a reflection on experiences at the Witness Our Welcome 2000 conference. Versions were subsequently reprinted in the More Light Update and Open Hands magazine (summer 2002). The sermon is updated here to adjust for shifts in my self-understanding, time-passing and for clarity in making it more relevant to a wider audience.

by Chris Paige
Mark 8:22-26 (Psalm 61:1-5)

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

Mark 8:22-26

In August 2000, I attended an event called Witness Our Welcome (or WOW 2000). It was a gathering of the “welcoming churches” movement – organized by several of the (predominantly white) Protestant groups that advocate for the inclusion of LGBT people in our churches – including More Light Presbyterians, the Open and Affirming program of the UCC, the Reconciling United Methodists, the Brethren Mennonite Council, and several others. This was the first event of its kind where we gathered across denominational lines in this way. There were over 1000 people attending the program which lasted several days.

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The Race Game (2018)

I (a white person) proposed The Race Game [source: Thandeka’s Learning to Be White: Money, Race, and God in America, 1999] to a (majority but not exclusively white) planning committee for a major LGBT Christian conference in 2003. They had asked me to bring a proposal about what they might do to confront the legacy of racism at a past event.

As I remember it, I (a white person) was told by older, more experienced folk that my proposal was both too naive and too radical. My proposal was set aside for other tactics and approaches.

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