Our Pride Sunday sermon was given by guest preacher Rachael Weasley, who is planting a queer-centered, activist Mennonite church in Bellingham, Washington, called Community of Hope. For a description of Community of Hope, please check out their Facebook page.
Hi there! I’m Rachael Weasley, and I’m so glad to be worshipping with you today. I felt moved to accept the invitation despite the short amount of time to prepare, so I appreciate your grace. I’m currently a church planter, pastoring a brand-new queer, activist Mennonite church: and we’re called Community of Hope. A little about me: I graduated from Oberlin with a BA in music history and theory in 2005, and got my master of divinity at Chicago Theological Seminary. I got involved with grassroots organizing in Chicago for racial and economic justice, which inspired me to write my first album of gender-inclusive Taize-style songs called Songs of Contemplation for Activists and Christians. I now have two albums of sheet music and my second album of recordings is set to be released later this year!
I actually lived in Alameda during middle school and high school, so when I met Sheri through our work with the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, I had to do a bit of reminiscing about the town and about the Bay Area. I haven’t lived in the area since I was 18 but it definitely still gives me that hometown feeling. So thank you for letting me join you there today, even if it’s over Zoom.
I’m in my backyard this morning, so I can introduce you to my blackberry bush. When Jerome and I moved to this house and began redoing the backyard, our next-door neighbor offered us canes (or shoots) from his blackberry bush. It was an old bush — probably close to 50 years old — and I loved the idea of having this hardy survivor of the past five decades in our garden. And so we planted those spindly little canes and — voila! — we got this. We have been enjoying delicious blackberries ever since. So have the birds and the occasional raccoon that makes its way onto the roof of our garage and gets to the blackberries from above. Birds don’t find shelter, as in making nests, in our blackberry, but they do hang out there sometimes.
The photos above is of an Amish farm near Sheri’s home in Ohio. This sermon is based on Mark 4:26-34.
I loved reading Frog and Toad stories to Patrick when he was young. And my favorite Frog and Toad story was the one we just heard. If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I would say that the overfunctioner in me — especially the overfunctioning parent in me — recognized myself in Toad. My Inner Toad believes that it is not enough to plant a seed (or birth a child) and sit back and let the organic mystery of growth happen. My Inner Toad believes that I have to do things — many things — to make this mystery happen. I have to hover over my seed and anxiously watch it. Is it growing yet? Why not? If I yell louder, will that result in growth? Oh no! Why is my seed delayed in growing, according to the unrealistic timeline I have set for it? Something is wrong and certainly requires my intervention. Let’s read a book or go online or consult an expert. Just like Toad convinces himself that his seed is afraid to grow, I’ll come up with some story about why my seed isn’t growing and then focus all my efforts around that story. All this work and worry will exhaust me. It is such hard work.
Growing up there were things I always expected to happen (or not happen) on Sundays. My Mom would tune the radio to the Christian program called Sunday Praise while we were getting ready for church. Then we would all pile into the van and tumble out at church, taking our usual spot in the front row. After church we would have a home-cooked meal and maybe a guest would join us. I think in the afternoon we usually played board games or did something as a family (we did have a TV, so TV watching was always off the table). No one went to the store because shopping was not allowed. The day would conclude with lots of stovetop popcorn for dinner.