Week 2 of "Reflecting on our Open & Affirming" By Terri Shows
Our ONA statement begins with "Christ Jesus has called us to be a community of faith, loving each other as God loves us, freely and without reservation."
One Sunday in 1996, I was late for church. UCH was on my way, so I pulled in! I felt so welcome that I stayed. Soon my family life changed radically. My college-age son developed a serious mental illness. In my fear and confusion, some of our members reached out to me, sharing their personal experiences. They offered me support, community, and the practical help of NAMI's Family-to-Family program. They gave me hope.
Some years later, I was in California for one of many extended stays with my aging parents. I brought my mom to a Methodist church nearby. She was developing dementia, which compounded her Bipolar Disorder. I was prepared for her to be uncomfortable as a visitor. We sat quietly in the pew for the service and Mom simply observed. She continued watching people as the service ended and people greeted each other. Leaning toward me, she said softly, "When they smile, they seem to have a good secret." I was floored. I hope I said something about love and community, but I don't remember. I had learned this open secret from UCH. If Mom could have moved to Huntsville, our community would have embraced her and touched her kind heart. We would have accepted her fully, disordered brain and all.
As it happened, my mom stayed put. On one of my trips to help my parents negotiate the challenges of aging, I found the local UCC congregation. There I met a woman who had just become an eldercare advocate. She helped my folks enter an excellent memory care facility. The very caring and well- trained staff filled my mom's final years with the love she needed. It was no secret that through these caregivers, God loved her "freely and without reservation."