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Coming Home: Why we support Plymouth Church United for All Families

By Peter Vitale

Good morning. I'm Peter Vitale, my partner Stephen Nelson and I, and our three children would like a few minutes of your time this morning to speak on behalf of Plymouth United for All Families.

Those of you who already know us, know that we love telling stories about our family. By and large, they are usually pretty funny. They also usually involve a fair amount of profanity. Fear not. We've cleaned up our act this morning.

This is a story about coming home.

First, some quick background. 1991-Steve and I meet. 1993-We move to Minneapolis from North Carolina. We don't know a soul, but decide to give it a try, telling ourselves we can always leave if we hate it. We don't hate it. Fast forward to 2001. Steve and I are in the process of trying to adopt one, or perhaps two, children through the United States Waiting Child Program. Steve gets a phone call at work asking him if we'd be interested in adopting a sibling "group." He asks for a definition of the word "group." The person on the other end tells him there are three siblings, twin girls who are 16 months old, and their brother, a year older, looking for a home. He says, "Yes."

Now. Let's be frank, children don't enter the Foster Care system because things are going well at home. To say, "Yes" to a child from Foster Care is to say, "Yes" to a variety of possible challenges that may not manifest themselves for years. To say, "Yes" in this situation means me staying at home full-time so that we can try to provide a radical sense of consistency that has been missing from these kid's lives. By saying, "Yes" we will be our son's tenth placement...at the age of two and a half. nd even though we are not legally married, and even though only one of us can claim our children as dependents on our United States Federal Income Tax, we say "Yes." Because sometimes, you just have to do the right thing. And it is time for these children to come home, for good.

On June 26th, 2001, we go from being a couple, to a family of five. We go from living in a world defined as either gay or straight, to one divided into people with kids and people without kids. We learn the value of having diapers delivered to the house in bulk, and we discover Costco. As the children grow, and we get to know them, we discover that despite their chaotic early months, they are smart, healthy, fiercely inquisitive, beautiful children. If they carry anything over from their former life, it is perhaps a relentless and indomitable independence. Trust me, we've tried to dominate it. It can't be done. They also possess what I can only describe as an authenticity that I envy. They are 100 percent "themselves" and not really interested in altering their core for us, or anyone. I love/hate that. Back to the story.

As our kids grow, we begin to think about their spiritual development. Being raised Catholic, and Southern Baptist means we know exactly what we don't want for their religious and spiritual training. For our family, joining Plymouth was, in a way, another kind of "coming home." There's a quality to how we feel being here that I can only describe as "inevitable." It's similar to the way we feel about finding our children in the way we did, at the time we did: "Inevitable."

However, something that is not, "inevitable" is the outcome of the vote to change our state's constitution limiting the rights of those who want to marry. (Nice segue, right?)

As I mentioned earlier, Steve and I are not legally married. Other than an exchange of vows between the two of us at the North Shore in 1993, the only evidence we have of being married is when one of the kids, I can't remember which one, pronounced it one morning at breakfast. It was really just an observation of the reality they saw around them. Very simple. And, then they moved on.

Well, I guess there's the mortgage, and the joint financial accounts, and our kids' birth certificates which list us both as the father, and their passports (by the way, issued by the Federal government for those of you keeping count of how many ways the government already recognizes our union), which also list us as their fathers. And, there's our love for one another. For evidence of that, you'll just have to take our word for it. Given our history of saying, "Yes," it's a bit ironic that we now feel compelled to say, "No" on November 6th. But, no matter what happens, we will wake up on November 7th, knowing that we are part of a strong, loving, dedicated family here at Plymouth. I had always suspected this was the case, but after seeing how energetically the staff and congregation has rallied on this cause, now we are certain. And we are enormously grateful for all of you.

Finally, Plymouth United for All Families still needs your help. Just like any marathon, the most difficult part comes at the finish line. But, if we can reenergize ourselves, and each other, we have a chance to make a profound statement. So, make plans to attend the Plymouth Church Home Stretch Party on Sunday, October 7, noon, to celebrate what Plymouth has done. There's probably something on your schedule already. Change it. There will be homemade food, speakers, skits, possible waltzing, and some fundraising for Minnesota United for All Families. Stay alert for more details to come.

(Fellowship talk presented at Plymouth Church in Minneapolis, Sept. 16, 2012.)

For more information, go to the Plymouth Church United for All Families page.

 

Peter Vitale (standing) and Stephen Nelson

Their children

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