Thursday, December 20, 2007

Red Doors and a Warm Welcome

Hi Everyone,
Well, it was bound to happen. I hit the front page of the Salem News with this fine article. My cousin asked if I was stirring up trouble other cousin said..."not again, but still!"
Peace to all.

Pastor has door painted red to signify welcoming tradition

Tom Dalton

SALEM | The massive double door on St. Peter Church is more than 200 years old but had gone largely unnoticed in recent years. Maybe that's because it was green and blended with the leafy surroundings of historic downtown Salem.
When the Rev. Paul Bresnahan, the church's new priest, arrived earlier this year, he was surprised to see a green door. "My wife said to me, 'What happened to the red door?'"
She asked about the color because Episcopal churches traditionally have red doors. It is the color of the blood of Christ and through history has served as a symbol of safety and sanctuary.
But the color red has even more meaning to Bresnahan. It also represents a welcoming church, a church that opens its arms and doors to everyone regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.
That's important to the 61-year-old priest, who is married and has three sons.
"I was brought up by a gay uncle," he said, "and two of my kids are gay."
Sexual orientation might not be a big deal in some churches, but the issue has split the Episcopal church wide open. The headlines started in 2003 with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire -- the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States.
"We have always ordained gay folks," said Bresnahan, who has been a priest for more than 30 years. "We have always ordained gay bishops, but nobody who would be honest about it. Gene Robinson is the first man who's honest."
Several congregations have seceded from the U.S. Episcopal Church over the growing support for gay rights. Just last week, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif., voted to leave the church.
There have been Episcopal churches in Massachusetts, including one in Hamilton, that have been torn over the issue, with some members believing that expanding the rights of homosexuals and lesbians within the church is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
Bresnahan disagrees with that position and, as the father of gay sons, feels so strongly that he wrote a book last year: "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get Into Heaven." It is dedicated to his wife and boys.
"Michael, I love you ..." he writes in one dedication, "precisely as you are and whoever you become."
"I have three kids, two of whom happen to be gay," Bresnahan said yesterday, sitting in his office in the old stone church, a photo of his three sons on his desk. "This is no big deal to (me and my wife) ...
"When they came out to me, there was never a question was there room in my heart for the love of them, or in God's heart."
Before coming to Salem, Bresnahan asked the members of St. Peter's to read the book. He wanted them to know about him and his family. It turned out to be no big deal to them either, he said, because St. Peter's is already a welcoming church, which has hosted a gay men's choir.
Although it wasn't his top priority at St. Peter's, Bresnahan said he started discussing the color of the door soon after his arrival. There were some objections, he said, but they had more to do with aesthetics than sex.
Painting the door bright red, he said, was a bow to tradition and the spirit of sanctuary, and also an acknowledgment of where St. Peter's stood at this time of controversy and dissent in the Episcopal church -- where St. Peter's has stood for a long time.
"For me," the new priest said, "it really comes down to the idea of being a house of prayer for all people."

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The Rev. Paul Bresnahan stands in front of St. Peter Church in Salem. The red door symbolizes that all are welcome to the church. Staff Photo