My second San-Francisco moment, at least by my little brother’s definition of the city, came that evening. My friend and former housemate Paul whom I came here to visit had been asked to speak to a group of undergrad InterVarsity students who were here from Minnesota on an intercity spring break trip. The students had come for a taste of urban ministry in what happens to be known as the gay city. Paul is a gay Christian. They asked him to come speak on homosexuality.
Having lived with Paul for a year, I had already heard a large chunk of his story, whether in conversation around the house or in the talk he gave at the seminary where he had been studying. I am always amazed to hear about the journey that eventually led him to move to a Christian community (ironically) in San Francisco to try to learn to follow Christ at whatever cost that may entail, which for him has meant a commitment to celibacy. He would not have made it without a community of people willing to share their lives with him. Paul’s story speaks of sacrifice to both sides of the homosexuality-debate: it says that if the Church is going to be the Church to those who struggle as he has, it is going to involve laying down our lives for each other.
Paul had never given this particular talk to a group like the tired, teenage, Midwestern Evangelicals we saw that night, a group I realized I had been a part of five years ago on my InterVarsity spring break trip to Philly when I was nineteen.
“I’m going to try something I’ve never done before,” he began his talk. “I’d like to open this discussion the way 12-step groups like AA open their meetings. I’d like us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, and just as one might say ‘My name is Paul and I’m an alcoholic,’ let us all admit that we are sinners, and welcome each other into the conversation on those grounds. I feel like that is a healthy posture for us to take as we approach the topic.
“My name is Paul and I’m a sinner.”So on my first evening in San Francisco, as it turned out, I sat in a room full of InterVarsity students like those whom I lived with in college, beside a 42-year-old celibate homosexual whom I lived with last year, and introduced myself as a sinner before listening to a talk about the Church learning to lay down our lives for each other.
Welcome to San Francisco.