peaceablekingdomOne of the tasks in which I’m privileged to participate as Room for All’s director is meeting with our bookkeeper and treasurer to work on the annual budget, an activity that usually involves several hours of number-crunching.  No, I’m definitely not an accountant.  Why, then, is this a privilege?  Because it’s a chance to look at the big picture; to consider what we were able to accomplish in the closing year, envision what might be possible in the next, and try to put numbers on those dreams.

During this particular Christmas season, there are two other ‘big pictures” that have been dancing in my mind.  One is John August Swanson’s “Peaceable Kingdom” (above) a favorite rendering of those words from Isaiah that many of us heard again on Christmas Eve, about the reign of One to come in which all of nature will live in harmony, predators and prey alike.  “They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

The other is a painting not unlike Swanson’s — a vivid collage of color, detailed images and seeming contradictions.  I’m speaking of the painting whose individual elements were created by participants in response to Room for All’s 2013 national conference, and then brought together and painted back into by Michigan artist Joel Schoon-Tanis.
Tanis resized
This painting hasn’t been named, but it might well share the title, “Peaceable Kingdom.”  “Peaceable” in the sense that the conference painting strikes me as a depiction of Room for All’s “big picture” vision:  a church where all are truly welcome, where people and opinions that seem to be at odds might co-exist, filled with and always responding to the “knowledge of the Lord.”  Or, as RfA’s vision statement has it, “compelled by the inclusive love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

This is the big picture that inspires everything RfA does:  inclusive church workshops, conferences, video projects, regional support groups, one-to-one support for LGBTQ people, families and allies who seek to co-exist in harmony within the Body of Christ.  It’s the picture that drives our budget planning, and it’s a privilege to be part of filling in the colors and textures.

By your prayers, participation, and financial support, you’re part of this picture, as well.  I hope that you’ll continue, and will invite others to join in this ministry for the welcome and full affirmation of people of all sexual identities and gender expressions in the Reformed Church in America.

Praying for God’s Grace and Peace in 2014,
Marilyn Paarlberg