There is something about a new beginning that resonates deeply with me, especially coming at Epiphany. We celebrate the revelation that this new baby is the manifestation of unconditional love from God, not just for some, but for all. That understanding came with the welcoming of strangers, who followed the call of God represented in a star. This piece of the Christmas story gets represented in my own home every year by three hand carved camels that belonged to my Grandma.
I have held that love is the best reason one does anything for some time. I join Room for All now as Program Coordinator because of my unrelenting belief in that unconditional love of God for my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and otherwise identified siblings and neighbors all throughout the world. My own chosen name, Mitchel, means “made through God’s plan,” so I do my best to follow the call as well, even though there’s not an astronomical event telling me where to go. I hope that I can be great help in supporting the transformation of communities of faith to become truly welcoming and affirming.
My memory calls to mind in these early days of January a faith community where I found myself prior to my transition, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ithaca, New York. I was there, ten years ago, to learn from their Reconciling Ministries team and assist in the planning of their celebration of 15 years as an LGBTQ+ affirming congregation. The concept of being openly welcomed in church was still new to me then!
On that Epiphany Sunday, having just arrived as a stranger in the midst of their congregation, I was asked to be a steward of communion. I accepted, and I cried about it, because I had not done so since I had started to come out. I count that welcome among the most deeply meaningful moments of my life, and those are the kind of moments I hope we will make possible for others in our work together.
I have since come into myself, traveled the country, married a brilliant lady, and all the while in my own wanderings I have always known that God is all around. While we are still in the midst of a necessary pause from large gatherings, I look forward to meeting and working with all of Room for All’s member congregations and ministry via Zoom and in person when we can do so safely. I hope that I won’t be a stranger to you for long!
The star was there to guide these three strangers to the manger, and when they saw it, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. We can only but guess as to how Mary and Joseph felt upon the arrival of kings to the stable they had found refuge in— I wonder if it was anything like how I feel when unexpected company drops in in the midst of a project! Still, they welcomed them in and the unusual gifts of the Magi were shared for love of the newborn king. I look forward to sharing my much simpler gifts for the same reason throughout the days to come.
I pulled out the bulletin from that Sunday ten years ago and will close with the Epiphany prayer we said in Unison that morning:
Radiant Morning Star, you are both guidance and mystery. Visit our rest with disturbing dreams, and our journeys with strange companions. Grace us with the hospitality to open our hearts and homes to visitors filled with unfamiliar wisdom bearing profound and unusual gifts. Amen.
Mitch Leet is RfA’s Program Coordinator