By Annabeth Roeschley
What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor, walls and a roof sheltering people, windows for light, an open door. Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near. I had only ever sung this hymn as a welcoming song, never before as an ending. But there we were as BMC staff and board members, standing among the empty walls and cleared cabinets of the Minneapolis office, raising these lyrics a capella. Offering this benediction. A blessing of gratitude for nearly three decades of BMC life and work generated here. It was powerful, tender, and a little hard to say goodbye. A physical space can hold so much, bearing memory. And yet, we become a queer body that lives when we are gathered, wherever we gather. So we prepare to go -- and trust the divine is near.
Words from afar, stars that are falling,
sparks that are sown in us like seed.
Names for our God, dreams, signs, and wonders
sent from the past are what we need.
We in this place remember and speak again what we have heard:
God's free redeeming word.
Dreams and signs, the presence of queer ancestors and elders in this place. Their words from afar, wisdom like stars that guide us toward the next phase of BMC. With wonder, too – for we can’t say for certain what shape we will take. What seeds in us will grow? What shoots will sprout forth? What we do know, what we remember and speak again is this: that god’s word is free, that god’s love liberates. We echo this call of the ages.
And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign. Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other's bread and wine. This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase: God's justice and God's peace.
Here in this world, where we breathe and we break, where we live and die. Here where we become what we need to survive. Where BMC family is sustenance, like bread and wine. Here where we reflect the image of the queer god, whose body broke, who offered life. Who said that wherever queer Mennonites and Brethren gather – whether around the church’s table or dancing at the wall, whether in a sanctuary or a backyard, whether in an office or zoom room -- in whatever manifestation we take, we become a living sign. A place where the holy dwells. Our door is open, our windows are light, we shelter each another. Justice and peace increase.
What is this place – Voices Together, 22 Text: Huub Oosterhuis (Netherlands), Zomaar een dak boven wat hoofden, 1968; trans. David Smith (England), c 1967 OCP Publications Music: Nederlandstche Gedenckclanck, 1626; harm. Bernard Huijbers (Netherlands), harm. c 1984 TEAM Publications, OCP Publications