I suppose I should preface every entry with the same disclaimer: This may be frivolous and may be profound. In truth it is more frivolous than I would like to believe and likewise less profound.
At St. John's, my small parish is an small town, we will be closing our nursery school at the end of the school year. It was not a completely fiscal nor a completely mission driven decision. It just seemed time.
As usual I am much better at reacting than forecasting in situations like this. There is much I wish I had said earlier. Don't get me wrong. It WAS the right decision for this time.
I spent much to much time in the garden this afternoon. The affects of UV attest to that. But I could not leave. There was much to be done and it is the only time that I really spend praying. OK, praying is not what most would call it, but it is having that internal dialogue that takes me closer to meditation than anything in my life. And after I have exhausted my monologue with uninterested bugs and dirt and weeds and flowers I finally settled into the issue that weighs.
Today, it was the nursery school. It is safe to say that St. John's is the least dogmatic church in the community. There is a Roman church, a Presbyterian and Methodist place to go on Sunday morning. Thanks to the past 40 years of evolution in the Episcopal Church and being in a parish and a diocese that has embraced that evolution we are the least dogmatic. We are the risk takers. We have openly straight and gay parishioners, our rector is a red-headed dervish and, with few exceptions, we supported President Obama. Let me quickly add, lest the IRS is tuned in, I speak individually not corporately. Our attempt at a book group always dissolves into a group of radicals bemoaning the reign of Republicans masquerading as Christians.
So what does this have to do with the nursery school? Well, I don't know. But I have a great curiosity about the possibilities.
Few parishioners have ever had children in the nursery school. It was a community institution and for that reason as good Episcopalians we avoided cramming religion down the throats of these little tykes. We respected the fact that there may have been Jews, Papists, Muslims, Druids or devote atheist there. The head teacher was not Episcopalian and so we had a largely non-denominational, perhaps even secular curriculum. I, in my Episcopalianess, supported that fully...
But now I wonder.
What if we had made it perfectly clear that this was an Episcopal school and because of that there would be religious education... But completely on our terms. We would teach of a God that was not necessarily male or female. We would talk openly about how God dwells in each of us... and we would teach that we are all created in God's image... regardless of color, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We would have "Heather has Two Mommies" read aloud. We would include alternative family structures, including same sex couples.
In other words we would lay the groundwork for the moral equality of LGBT folk.
We would make this clear. We would not teach sex education. Parents would know this and if they could not buy into it they would take their children elsewhere.
What if we had done that? Would it have made a difference? Would the school have closed earlier or would it have provided a welcome alternative in an affluent, well educated community?
How does this apply to the bigger church?