Over the next 14 months the people of Minnesota will be drawn into a debate — some might call it a battle — about marriage equality.
In November 2012, voters will be asked to rule on whether all citizens will have access to the institution of marriage or whether that institution will be reserved for just one segment of the population: heterosexuals. Many in Minnesota will be disappointed to see massive resources of money and time expended on this question, and many — of varying opinions — will find themselves bruised by the rhetoric, exhausted by the polarization and saddened by the strains that the campaign puts on our state family … a family that already has major problems to face. And yet … the question is before us. The debate has already begun. We will have to see it through.
In the face of this climate, the people of Plymouth Congregational Church, where the two of us serve, feel a call to be a healing presence and to offer opportunities for individuals to step out of the fray for a time — a time of contemplation, regeneration, and mutual support.
Beginning on Sunday, Sept. 25, at 5 p.m., we will offer monthly services called Healing Minnesota. All are invited to join us. We aim to foster love, respect and healing in a time of division about the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage rights through speakers, music, prayers and silence.
Speaking at the first Healing Minnesota service will be Barbara Lundblad, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York and a woman renowned for her compassion and brilliance. Our music — directed by the talented Philip Brunelle and involving many of Plymouth’s much-praised musicians — will help to create a setting of inspiration, safety and spiritual strength.
These will be worship services — not campaign rallies — where we will seek God’s peace and healing for all. At the Healing Minnesota services, we will stand not only with the GLBT community but with everyone who feels embattled during this campaign. We honor all families, recognize love as a force for positive change in the world and desire to live out the compassion, patience, justice, and peace of God … however God is understood by any of us.
It is clearly part of Plymouth’s tradition to host services such as these. Long a congregation that has been open to people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, Plymouth is known as a congregation that seeks God’s justice for all. Radically inclusive, broadly welcoming and courageously progressive, this church — for more than 150 years — has been a healing presence in Minneapolis.
When asked to characterize the congregation, members most often use words like “family, love, unconditional acceptance, mutual support, and love.” As one member wrote:
“[I am] thankful to God for giving me a family when I had given up hope of having one.”
Plymouth is most widely known for its progressive theology, for its commitment to social justice and to its understanding of the arts as an avenue to the soul. The Healing Minnesota services will bring together all three strands.
This church, which over the last 10 years has been a major force on behalf of Minnesota’s homeless, wants now to include those who are made “homeless” by the storm of controversy surrounding the marriage amendment. We want to say to them: “Come in. Sit down. Feel safe. Let yourself become calmed. Drink in the energy of a positive spirit. Know that you are beloved by God and by the people around you. Have courage. Be of good cheer.”
Through the 14 months of debate and conflict that lie ahead, there will be — all around Minnesota — forces of civility, grace and empowerment where people can turn to become their better selves. Plymouth Congregational Church is one of those places. Please join us, 5 p.m., on Sept. 25 to embrace your brothers and sisters, to grow and to heal.
James Gertmenian and Jeffrey Sartain are senior and executive ministers at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. S.