A Resurrection Story

A Resurrection Story

by the Right Rev. Gary Paterson, Moderator, United Church of Canada

Like everyone, I have my blind spots and stereotypes—like, my assumption that small towns aren’t all that accepting of differences, and if, just for instance, you’re an LGBT person you should probably head for the big city as soon as you can. Well, let me tell you an Easter story that blows a hole in my stereotypes!

Up in northern Ontario—north as in you have to turn the map over to take a look at the other half of the province—way up there, was a young boy named Isaac. Except he didn’t feel like a boy. Rather, he felt like a girl who was stuck inside the wrong body. His family knew Isaac was different, and they visited doctors, psychologists, and a whole bunch of experts. Now here, I guess, is the first miracle: nobody told Isaac he was crazy. Instead, they agreed with him—he was a girl in a boy’s body. Which was going to make life very difficult, but it was his truth.

And here’s the second miracle: Isaac’s family said, with no reservations or conditions, “We love you!” And when Isaac slowly began to appear as Crystal, they said, “Welcome!”

Now, Crystal’s family are United Church folk—members and worshippers at a little church in a small town in the north. Not the larger, liberal, affirming congregation in town but the little church that some think of as more conservative. Holy Week was fast approaching, and everyone was excited about Easter Sunday worship. Only trouble was, when it came to church, it was always Isaac who had shown up. But this year was going to be different.

On Easter Sunday, as Crystal got ready for church, she put on fancy shoes, her hairband, and a beautiful dress. And off the family went. At Children’s Time, when all the kids came forward, Crystal was part of the crowd. Well, not actually a crowd—remember, this was a small church, where everybody pretty much knew everyone else. People were staring, whispering, and surreptitiously pointing at the little girl sitting on the steps at the front of the church. The minister took a good long look at this new person who had arrived for worship, and she said, “Well, hello. You must be Crystal. You’re very beautiful. I’m happy to meet you. Welcome to church!” And then she proceeded to tell the Easter story just like always.

And that was that. Except, of course, it wasn’t. It’s never that simple. There were phone calls—lots of them—and much upset in the congregation. So the minister called folk together and said, “We’re surprised; we don’t understand. Of course it feels strange. Isaac isn’t Isaac anymore but now is Crystal. But she’s a member of our church; this is where she belongs. She has trusted us enough to let us see who she really is. She needs us. This isn’t easy for her. We have to help her. We’re called to accept Crystal, to love her for the person she is, the person she is becoming, the person she was brave enough and trusting enough to share with us. We need to say, ‘Welcome to the church, Crystal.’”

And they did. I don’t know all the details, and I’m sure it wasn’t always easy. But I believe the church’s welcome will be one of the reasons Crystal will thrive in adolescence, unlike so many other young transgendered people who try to kill themselves. Crystal will have known a place of acceptance in her family and her church.

Which sounds to me like resurrection occurred that Easter in a little church in a small northern Ontario town, where followers of Jesus discovered and proclaimed that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” for “there is no longer Jew or Greek…slave or free…male or female; for all of [us]…are one in Christ Jesus.”

And here’s how Easter keeps moving in our midst: Crystal’s family writes:

We are also willing to communicate with others, if…the Moderator pass[es] contact information to us, we would be willing to talk, share resources, and be supportive.

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