“EXTRAVAGANT WELCOME” by Pastor Tracey Dawson, UCC Parker Hilltop

A few weeks ago, a woman posted on our church Facebook page that she was seeking an open and affirming church who would agree to hold a memorial service for her 27-year old trans sister who had passed away the previous month. Our FaceBook editor, Angie Law, saw the post and immediately forwarded it to me, texted me, and then called me to make sure I was on the task! I contacted the woman who posted the inquiry. She was grateful that we responded so quickly.

She informed me that she lived in the area and had found us on social media. Her family was religiously a mixture of fundamentalist traditions, and none of those traditions were willing to hold the service for her sister. Could we do it for her? We set a meeting to talk further and I went about assembling our memorial/funeral team. Our Care and Nurture chair, Martha Sprague, Music Director, Julie Robuck, Our Lead Deacon, Randy Mann, and our Administrative Assistant, Karen Rangel, all jumped into action.

On August 8th, we held a memorial service for Alex, complete with wonderful music, prayers, scripture, a stirring eulogy by her sister, poems, and a homily. Following, we hosted a dinner for the family and her guests. Several other members of our church family hosted and represented the extravagant welcome our church has come to be known for.  Our theme was one of inclusion and healing. By the time the service was over and the meal was served, smiles broke out, family members hugged each other for the first time in years, others were able to express their condolences and socialize over dinner, and the woman who had reached out in the first place believed she had found her new church home.

The following day, this post was added to our church FaceBook page:

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving my sister such a beautiful service. The love and acceptance me and my family felt was undeniable and you had only just met us days ago. Pastor Tracey’s message was perfect and profound. The music was heavenly. And the hospitality surpassed my expectations. We were treated like family and I know I’ve found a new home at UCC Parker Hilltop. I’m looking forward to attending services and getting to know this amazing group of people.”

Healing finds an open door when it is met with authentic hosting in the UCC Open & Affirming tradition. We are grateful to this family for reaching out to us, trusting us to hear Alex’s story and to present it with both Christian love and human vulnerability. We, too, look forward to getting to know Daisy better in the months to come. And who knows what healing, hoping, and hosting is yet to come. Thank you to my wonderful church family for stepping up so gracefully and graciously as I have come to know you would. Our church motto is, “come as you are, for you are enough.”  This family came as they were, broken and grieving as families are in times of tragedy, and we assured them that they were enough. We brought ourselves and our extravagant welcome, and we were enough, too. God is good, all the time.

– Pastor Tracey Dawson, UCC Parker Hilltop

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