• Vested Interest

Silence in the Sanctuary

Mary Davenport Davis
February 11, 2016

"If the foot were to say, 'because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body." (2 Cor. 2:15)

In recent weeks, a council of primates within the Anglican Communion voted to sanction The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion within the United States, due to the decision by the 2015 General Convention to honor the sacramentality of gay marriage. I don't have much to say about the politics of the decision. I don't have much to add to the discussions of the meaning of the Anglican Communion in the first place, or the worries that we're headed for a greater schism, or the tension of balancing various understandings of God's call to us across a divided world. Instead, I found myself, last week, thinking quite simply about what it means to me, as a straight, cisgendered woman, to be in a church community that tries fully to welcome and include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, and that recognizes committed relationships between them as holy. What would my time be like at Trinity without these relationships? 

For starters, there would be a lot less beauty in my life. The great ropes of greenery at Advent, the luscious Easter lilies, would all be missing. The long grey willow stems that typically surround the altar during Lent would not be there, and their simple, arresting story of resurrection, as they move from bare branches to green leaves, would be lost. The profusion of candles on the altar steps on Sunday evenings would go dark - there would be no one to light them. 

There would be less music - very little music at all. We would not hear the great stirring rumbles of the organ, or the heart-stopping chords of the choir. Our great heritage of Anglican music would fall silent. And the young people apprenticed to the great disciplines of music and liturgy - they would suffer, too. Their mentors, who care deeply for them as they are and challenge them to become all that God has in mind for them, would be gone. Several of our young people, too, would be gone; their parents would not have brought them into our midst to surprise and delight and challenge us.

As for me - when I arrived at Trinity almost five years ago, no one would have invited me to dinner after the 6 p.m. Eucharist one Sunday and helped me find my way into a new network of friends. When I was hospitalized less than six months later, no one would have visited me in the hospital to bring me communion and tell me that my church cared about me, that God cared about me. No one would have preached to me about the ways that my own suffering might be carried - not understood, not solved, but perhaps carried - alongside the suffering of Christ, and thus helped me begin to find reconciliation with the faith I was raised in. 

And from day to day, as I walk through the sanctuary and the Parish House, there would be fewer kind words thrown my way, fewer jokes, fewer earnest, intense conversations about the future of the church and the direction the Holy Spirit is taking us. There would be far less laughter, and far less good advice. And there would be far fewer examples available to me, as a young married person, of what it looks like to give glory to God through a committed relationship, to become a blessing on the world around you through the mutual care of two people.

Most of the time I take these things for granted. I am lucky enough to be able to do that. So in a way, I'm grateful for the sanction of the Anglican Primates, because it reminded me that things could be otherwise. Our beloved Trinity sanctuary could be far darker, more silent, less beautiful, without the joyful gifts of the LGBT members of our community. I'm so glad that's not who we are.


At "Vested Interest," church nerd Mary Davenport Davis explores all things liturgy and music at Trinity and beyond. Chime in with comments and questions!