“How tall is your friend, Isaac Villegas?” asked one of our Rainbow Mennonite quilters. She wanted to know his measurements for the Rainbow stole she was making him.
The response in my head went something like: No matter Isaac’s measurements, this stole can’t be long enough. Of course I didn’t have the heart to say this. After all, she had already spent hours and hours lovingly sewing this stole.
This particular project eventually finished. And yet as I wrapped it carefully in a box and taped it shut, I kept having the urge to open it back up again, hop in my car and travel across the country with it, asking the quilters of every community to add their loving stitches to this stole so that it could indeed stretch on and on like a Rainbow across the Mennonite Church.
Imagine a Rainbow stole long enough to wrap around pastors who have blessed same-sex marriages, long before Isaac. Imagine a Rainbow stole long enough to wrap around pastors and church leaders who, because of their sexual identity, are continually treated as less-than human, never being allowed ministerial credentials to begin with. Imagine a Rainbow stole that could touch every person who has ever contemplated suicide, or been abused, harassed, traumatized again and again as a result of hetero-normative beliefs and values. If all the quilters in the Mennonite Church, or the world for that matter, came together to make a Rainbow stole large enough to touch each of these lives, I suspect it would still not be long enough.
Many of my clergy friends who are more accustomed to wearing stoles tell me that every time they put on their stole they remember their calling to love wholly the whole people of God. It’s not just their calling to love those who dutifully come to worship every Sunday morning or who serve on boards or committees, but it is to love those who stand on the edges, those who have been denied access to tables, pews, and pulpits, those whose voices and bodies are marginalized and oppressed again and again.
I trust that Isaac will remember this if and when he wears this Rainbow stole. I trust Isaac knows that when we say we stand with him, our work is far from done as we all stand under the weight and pain caused by centuries upon centuries upon centuries of harmful church polities and theologies.
The stitching together of a better future continues, and sometimes this process seems painstakingly slow. But the work is really never done. This Rainbow stole is not even done, as beautiful as it is, because the work of loving wholly the people of God is never done. It goes on and on and on.
And so together with Isaac, together with Kate and Kate whose lives were recently united in marriage, together with those whose backs are weighed down with shame and hurt, together with church leaders and activists of all kinds, let’s keep imagining the Great Alpha and Omega standing with us all, stretching far and wide, without end.
Sure, we will only get glimpses of this measure-less, never-ending love, just like we only get glimpses of Rainbows. And yet it’s there, sometimes just beyond the clouds, beyond our knowing, beyond our church policies, beyond our feeble attempts at defining God. It’s there calling us to greater love.
Anyone out there up for a Rainbow stole road trip?