Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.
I have to admit to liking this hymn a lot. Here are words we want to believe in, something that we are doing in our local church - warm, comforting, fuzzy even. And that's the problem: inclusion is NOT conformtable. When we think (or sing) about inclusion, there is an assumption that it is an easy thing, where we remain as we are and others come and join us without disturbing the statu quo we have created. That's not inclusion; it's a gathering of the like-minded, a dinner party with our friends.
Inclusion is a messy place with messed up people. It is having to sit next to people who might not share our views or our hygiene habits. It is taking seriously people that society has already written off. It is serving others who have nothing to offer in return. It is going beyond the exterior of rhetoric or people's pasts to live in reality. And it is being willing to acknowledge that we have a need to be with people we don't like because, without them, the Church - and we - are incomplete.
That's not to say that there is no place for exclusion. As Barbara Glasson often says: Where all are welcome, none are safe. Those of us who belong to minorities, we know that we still need places where people are like us and we can be sure of a welcome and no judgement. We need places where people 'get us' and we talk a common language. But let's be clear: that is NOT inclusion. Safer spaces are boundaried and entry is restricted.
The Church must provide both kinds of places if it is to fulfill its vocation. Inclusion does mean vulnerability and risk for those involved and some have risked too much to be part of that. But Blessed Oscar Romero reminded us that participation in the missio Dei is a corporate activity and we do it together or not at all. We are not all called to do everything, but only to play our part:
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.