A Place at the Table
In preparation for a follow-up mailing for this year’s new member drive for CAMP Rehoboth, the Membership Committee created a concept showing the hands of two people sitting at a table and holding this season’s purple membership mug. The caption reads, “join us,” and offers a welcome to join us in membership.
When I shot the image for that card, I realized that there were several elements that made the concept a good one: the two mugs, the hands holding them, and the table where they were sitting.
The idea of coming together around a table is a powerful one. There is a feeling of equality that comes from sitting down together; there is a sense of hospitality that comes from sharing food and drink with one another; there is the ability to negotiate with those who have very different ideas than our own. Offering a seat at one’s table is a globally recognized symbol of sharing.
For those of us who are Gay and Christian (or members of any religion, for that matter), the idea of having “a place at the table” has long been an important concept for us. In the course of modern culture wars, gay and Christian are frequently portrayed as archenemies. While some conservative religious institutions do continue to be the source of much of the antigay rhetoric in the world, the LGBT community can also be uncompromising in our refusal to try and understand how and why someone has, what to us, seems like a hate filled view of the world. That’s why sitting down together, one on one, neighbor to neighbor has been at the heart of the change that has taken place in many of our churches, synagogues, and temples in recent years.
Steve and I are United Methodists, and the United Methodist Church (UMC) is, not only where my experience comes from, it is also a perfect example of the struggle going on in many religious communities over how to reconcile our differences. Why? Because the UMC, for the most part, is neither the most conservative nor the most liberal of the Christian denominations. Its membership, especially here in the US and Europe, tends to be mainstream. At the same time, the UMC is a global denomination, and has many members in the more conservative African and South American countries.
The Methodist table is huge—which is why it takes so long to bring about change, and why everything has to begin at the local level.
Our own Epworth United Methodist Church, as I’ve said before in these pages, is a Reconciling United Methodist Church, which means that the church as a whole has voted to welcome LGBT people into the full life of the church. That was not always the case, and Steve and I and many others in our church spent years shepherding it to a place of full inclusion. In the beginning it was especially hard, and many years ago we took part in a series of “round table” discussions, which brought together in small groups folks with very diverse opinions. Sometimes the discussions were very difficult, but they made a huge difference, and in the weeks and months that followed Epworth really began to understand what it meant to open its doors to everyone—and to become the congregation it is today.
What does all this have to do with CAMP Rehoboth? At the heart of the work we do here, there is a 24/7 advocacy for creating a world where all are welcome. The progress of this organization over the years, has been much like our experience at Epworth. As we invite people to the CAMP “table” our community has been changed.
The LGBT community has made almost unbelievable progress in recent years, and yet people still struggle with coming out and bullies still use the gay word as an insult. Even as life gets better for most of us here in the US, there are horror stories coming out of Russia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Becoming a member of CAMP Rehoboth may not change anything in any of those places, but it does give us the ability to continue to advocate for inclusion and respect within our own part of the world—as we have done for almost a quarter of a century. Who knows, maybe like the little Hobbits in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the effects of our actions in the tiny state of Delaware will reverberate throughout the world in ways that none of us can imagine.
I love the table imagery implicit in this year’s membership graphics, but truthfully, all people are welcome at the CAMP table—members or otherwise. Becoming a member of CAMP Rehoboth, simple means that by joining us we are all better able to expand the size of our table and offer our services, programs, activities, and advocacy to all who are in need of them.
Included in the new member mailing for this year, was a bookmark that listed all the things that CAMP Rehoboth does. It’s an impressive list, and it reminds me that each thing on it happens because of the support we receive from our community.
Our CAMP Rehoboth table may not have a global reach just yet, but it is open to all. Please consider joining us today in celebrating diversity, building a strong sense of community, and Creating A More Positive environment for all people, gay and straight.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.
Photos: CAMP Rehoboth new member postcard for the 2014 CAMP Rehoboth Membership Drive; CAMP Rehoboth “Did You Know” bookmark.