My learning about, and coming to, Metropolitan Community Churches is what I often call a “Divine Set-Up.” Let me explain.
I grew up in a small Virginia town, where the railroad tracks served as the racial dividing line and where there were very few activities for African-American kids after school and during the summer. The church was the center of our community for the majority of us. For me, it was my second “home.” It was the community that provided spiritual instruction, nurture, support, encouragement, care and unconditional love. I still vividly remember singing a hymn which, without a doubt, informed and shaped my ever evolving faith and became my hymn of affirmation. The first two verses read:
I am so happy in Christ today,
That I go singing along my way;
Yes, I’m so happy to know and say,
“Jesus included me, too.”
Gladly I read, “Whosoever may
Come to the fountain of life today;”
But when I read it I always say,
“Jesus included me, too.”
Jesus included me,
Yes, He included me;
When the Lord said, “Whosoever,”
He included me! (Repeat)1
In their own way, my church encouraged and supported me for me . . . at least the person they interacted with on an almost daily basis. Little did they know (at that time) the “outer” person they loved, encouraged, affirmed and supported through the years was, by extension, the invisible “inner” person I was and always knew myself to be – an African-American trans-identified male . . . and I knew God knew it too!
One weekend while hanging out with friends, a discussion ensued about possibly visiting a “gay church” that had been advertised in the local LGBTQ+ paper. I’ll admit the idea was intriguing; I would not, however, allow the visit to interfere with my Sunday church obligations and they knew that already. Then they told me the church met on Sunday evenings so I should be able to go . . . Did I mention at the beginning about feeling divinely setup? Ok, so I agreed to go . . .
When we arrived at the church, we sat in the last pew closest to the entrance (I always took the verse in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God . . .” (1 John 4:1) very seriously, so I wanted to be close to the door in case I felt a need to make a quick exit!). We sat, participated and I observed everything. Then I found myself singing hymns, songs and praise choruses along with the congregation. As I sang, what I was feeling inwardly felt familiar; while the way in which the songs were sung was new (i.e. different), the feeling I was experiencing while singing them certainly was not. I could only attribute it to the presence of God stirring in the service – it certainly was stirring in me too.
Following the sermon and offering, the service then moved into Holy Communion. I always looked forward to the 2nd Sunday of the month because it was Communion Sunday at our church. It would be those Sundays when we remembered the ultimate gift of love God offered up for all in the person of Jesus. ALL . . . this one word included me too and from the time of my baptism, I never questioned that promise from God. For me, that one word included the “outer” person others knew and the “inner” person God always knew me to be . . . before I was “knit together” in my mother’s womb. The question for me was, how would this new church “fit” into the larger fabric of my relationship with God and as a Christ follower?
In a matter of seconds, I knew the Spirit of God was present, I knew the God who always knew me graced Erik’s lips with the words of affirmation I longed for and needed to hear for years. Those two words changed my life and reignited the call to ministry…
As I was pondering the question, I heard two words uttered during the invitation which caused my heart to smile. Those two words? Open Communion. Those two words reaffirmed my belief that God had indeed prepared a place at the table for all of the “whosoevers” of the world. It would be up to each person, however, to embrace the invitation to “come, taste and see.” So, I did.
As I made my way down the aisle, I was directed to the next open communion station. I would be receiving communion from Erik Browning (of blessed memory), one of the Deacons serving that evening. As Erik offered me the elements, he started by saying two words that instantly washed over my soul like the waters of baptism. Those two words? “My Brother . . .” In a matter of seconds, I knew the Spirit of God was present, I knew the God who always knew me graced Erik’s lips with the words of affirmation I longed for and needed to hear for years. Those two words changed my life and reignited the call to ministry I received when I was in high school. In the end, on that Sunday evening, what I really thought was a “Divine Set Up” turned out to be a “Divine Appointment.” This Divine Appointment would set the stage for me to begin my journey to finally live in the fullness of who I was and who God always knew me to be and ultimately pave the way for me to embrace God’s call upon my life to serve God’s people. It would be this Divine Appointment that would reaffirm my belief that:
For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free.2
Now, over 30 years later, I continue living out my pastoral call in MCC, ministering with and assisting others, particularly gender fluid, gender non-conforming and trans*-identified persons in knowing about the width and depth of God’s unconditional love, Who ensures there is a place at the table for ALL!
And there’s still a place for you too!
1Jr., Oatman, Johnson. “He Included Me,” 1909. Baptist Hymnal (2008). https://www.Hymnary.org
2Murray, Shirley Erena. For Everyone Born. Hope Publishing Company (1998). https://www.hopepublishing.com.
ABOUT THIS MCC AUTHOR: The Rev. Brendan Y. Boone, a Virginia native, was raised Baptist in the African-American religious tradition and nurtured in a church environment which championed, valued and emphasized the importance of living in a unified community with people from all experiences of life. Understanding “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11, NIV), this and other spiritual principles instilled in him a passion for challenging barriers within the institutional church and building up communities of faith which embrace and embody the ministry and message of The Christ. Rev. Boone has been a member of Metropolitan Community Churches for over thirty (30) years, serving in a variety of leadership capacities on the local, district/regional/network and denominational levels. Read More