RIVERVIEW, N.B. — A New Brunswick minister found himself compelled to preach Sunday about whether Donald Trump would be welcomed in his church: a place of worship that prides itself on its inclusive and welcoming nature.
Rev. Steve Berube of St. Paul’s United Church in Riverview agreed to write a sermon on any topic as a prize for a silent auction fundraiser, and the group of winning “co-conspirators” asked him to address whether the president has a place in his church.
The winning bid? $60.
“If I had known, I would’ve out-bid them!” laughed Berube.
“But it was a lot of fun. I used a bit of humour in it. Every now and then, we have to have a little bit of laughter when we’re facing and dealing with serious issues.”
Berube said his church is welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation — a trait he believes the president fails to embody, based on comments he’s made about women, the LGBTQ community, refugees and immigrants.
“Where do the bounds of inclusion end, is really the question,” said Berube, 62, “and how do we welcome in somebody who is so antithetical to the things that we believe?”
Berube said he struggled with writing the sermon because it forced him to weigh Trump’s behaviour — which he described as normalizing bullying and sexism — against lessons taught in scripture.
The minister said Jesus is often portrayed as an all-accepting and all-forgiving figure — and while plenty of biblical stories point to that, he said there are others in which Jesus is more demanding.
“Really, there’s a sense of accountability that he calls us to around justice and mercy, especially for those who are on the margins,” he said, which makes it difficult to strike a balance between how the Bible’s words and Trump’s behaviour.
“It’s really easy to turn Donald Trump into a caricature and forget that he’s a human being who’s capable of change,” said Berube.
In the end, Berube did decide that Trump would be welcomed at St. Paul’s — though he noted that he would have to make a lot of changes in order to truly be a part of the church.
Berube said he believes worship is about transforming oneself and being more open to learning about other people. He said he and his congregation would expect the president would be open to this kind of spiritual metamorphosis.
“Donald Trump would be welcomed,” he said. ”But we would also expect anybody who comes — just as I have been transformed, just as others in the congregation have been transformed — that he, too, would be transformed.”
He added: “He may find it pretty uncomfortable.”
While his Sunday sermon may have had a controversial subject, the minister said he welcomes any dissenting views from his congregation.
“I will always get pushback, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
“It pushes me to deeper understandings. It pushes me to listen harder to people who have a different perspective. It pushes me to recognize that there are many good people out there who hold different views, and they are not diminished in any way.”
Berube said he’d like to extend an invitation for Trump to pay St. Paul’s a visit if he ever makes it to New Brunswick.