At First Church’s last annual meeting, June 10, 2012, the Church Council called for the establishment of a team to study Open and Affirming policies of non-discrimination and for welcoming those of all “sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions” (“lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” people) into the full life and ministry of the church.
David Foye and I volunteered, and we were soon joined by Gordon and Lorraine Angel, Holly Brauner, Peter Crowe, Scott Heggie, Natasha Medwedeff and Sharon Scofield to complete the team. Pastor Ian Holland, is an Ex-officio member of the group too.
As a group, we prayed for God’s guidance, and reflected on how the First Church’s Mission Statement (on the back of every Sunday’s service bulletin) spoke to this process. We asked ourselves… Do we “provide a place of worship to learning and teaching” for all? Do we covenant “to bring glory to God as a worshipful and nurturing body of believers who encourage spiritual life” for all? The last covenant in our Mission Statement, “to celebrate our diversity with Christian love, forgiveness, and tolerance toward one another” sounds, we believe, a loud call for our family in Christ to visit the opportunities surrounding welcoming churches.
The team also considered how this ministry might be informed and inspired by the Gospel. We were drawn to: Philippians 1:27, Life Worthy of the Gospel; Philippians 2:5; Romans 12:4-13; Luke 10:25-28, The Parable of the Good Samaritan; and Mark 12:28-34, The Greatest Commandment:
… he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important? “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
And so as we begin to chart a process for the congregation we are committed to being good listeners, transparent in our deliberations. We strive to have our process respond to the nature and needs of First Church.
We anticipate the ONA process will take as long as a year, sharing resources with the congregation and giving everyone the opportunity to become informed by them. We imagine this will include books, movies, discussions and witnessing presentations. We pray that the Holy Spirit guides us through this process gracefully.
So please stay tuned. We plan to announce a date, hopefully in May, when we’ll share as many details of the process as we’ve envisioned them and to answer your questions about the process!
May God bless us on this journey,
Jim Kinchley for the First Church ONA Team
ONA Covenant Announcement
he ONA Team would like to thank the 60 members of First Church that attended our Open and Affirming (ONA) Cottage Meetings. We congratulate all of you for faithfully allowing this time of “Holy Listening”. And we’d like to add a special thanks to Lynn Lindsay, the Whears, Rebecca Kinchley, the Sawyers, the Dariotises, the Scofields and the Angels for so graciously hosting the 8 meetings. The Valentine’s Day themed meeting at the Dariotises’ [home] will ensure they are asked to host again!
If there are any of you that would like us to convene one more Cottage meeting, we would arrange another, perhaps on a Sunday after Church. Or if you would like to be heard in a private conversation, please let any ONA team member know.
If you would like access to any of the resources we’ve created or deployed during this process, please let us know that also. We are assembling a collection of resources in the library for borrowing, and we encourage you to go to the First Church website at https://thefirstchurch.org/, move the cursor over “Get Involved” on the home page and then hover over “Open and Affirming (ONA) Team”, and select Bibliography for even more.
On the strength of the broad consensus and favorable feedback from the Cottage Meetings, the ONA Team has asked Scott Heggie, Gordon Angel, Sharon Scofield and Jim Kinchley to prepare an ONA Covenant for The First Church of Swampscott, Congregational. They will present that draft to any interested members after the service on Sunday, March 16th. Following this meeting, the resultant “final” Covenant will be printed and distributed by Sunday, March 23rd. A formal Congregational Meeting will be held on Sunday April 6th, with the specific purpose of inviting the congregation to vote on publically affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, welcoming them through our Covenant to the life and ministry of our church! There is also a clear consensus from the Cottage meetings that the Covenant should additionally explicitly address other groups that have experienced societal or institutional discrimination or exclusion.
The First Church Open and Affirming Team :
Lorraine Angel, Gordon Angel, Holly Brauner, Peter Crowe, David Foye, Scott Heggie, Jim Kinchley (chair), Natasha Medwedeff, Sharon Scofield, Rev. Ian Holland (advisor)
> IF THERE ARE MINUTES OF THIS MEETING, LET’S PUT THEM HERE, AND INCLUDE THE TEXT OF THE ONA COVENANT. <<<