To the person(s) who taped with packaging tape this laminated notice on every door of First Congregational Church of La Grange and other churches in the area sometime after nightfall last evening:
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the One who is, who was, and who shall always be.
I'm taking a moment from my labors as a child of God to address your visit by darkness to the building of First Congregational Church of La Grange last night, and to your urgent message to the leaders and members of the congregation.
1. While you posted this at night so as to be anonymous, we have have your actions on multiple security cameras feeds. It was lovely to discover who you really are. I'm very sorry you didn't choose to come in the day light to experience our radical hospitality, good coffee, and open minds.
2. We respect both the freedom of religion and the freedom FROM religion as provided for in the US Constitution. You are free to believe and practice faith as you would like to do so. We are also free to believe and practice faith as we choose to do so. If you do not agree with our values and practices, you are still welcome here. Alternatively, there are plenty of other faith communities with whom you can affiliate; perhaps there is a congregation that reflects your beliefs. I believe that your freedom of religion ends with you; and I believe that no one can tell another what to believe.
3. My understanding of the Bible is based upon two commandments: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’" This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) These are the words of Jesus, the foundation and source of our faith. The writer of the Epistle of John states the same thing in a different phrase: "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1John 4:8) Prejudice molds our view of the Bible. My prejudice is to err on the side of love, kindness, mercy, and grace. Your life is not up for me to judge. God tells us to love everyone. No exceptions.
4. As the pastor and leader of First Congregational Church of La Grange, I stand behind our Open and Affirming stance, I stand beside all of God's children regardless of any construed separation others may place upon humanity, and I stand against all forms of injustice, prejudice, hatred, inequity, and oppression. These beliefs are based upon my understanding of the Jesus of scripture being a teacher of love, peace, healing, mercy, and kindness. I am confident that all of those who affiliate with this congregation are children of God who are fully loved, embraced, and encouraged by the Divine in their life journeys by a God who practices radical hospitality. In all these things you are welcome to disagree. We live in a country where diversity is celebrated, and where ideas are the basis of our democracy. I encouraged you to come by in the light of day, worship with us, experience our radical hospitality over a cup of coffee after worship, and get to know us. You are always welcome here.
Rev. Carly Stucklen Sather Pastor and Teacher