It’s been nearly 10 years since I first set foot inside a Metropolitan Community Church. I didn’t even know such a church, aimed at the spiritual well-being and safety of gays and lesbians, existed, until my partner at the time saw an article in a local Atlanta paper.
We had just been through a rather traumatic time. Her brother had outed her to her parents, who were now no longer speaking to her, and probably were thinking about contracting a hit on me for leading their daughter into “sin.” [Oh, if they had only known the whole story!] On top of that, my partner had recently been in a car accident, leaving us scrambling for the money to pay the deductible to get our auto fixed. We both had strayed from the church for years after receiving the clear message that we were not welcomed in the churches where we grew up. We hadn’t thought of God or church in years, until we picked up that newspaper.
My partner was enthusiastic. She called the contact listed with the article and got information on one of the local congregations. The contact person gave us some phone numbers of couples in the church so we could meet people before we actually went to church. She called and arranged a meeting with one of the couples and was ready to head back to church.
I was less than enthusiastic. We had been fine for years without God, the church or any manner of spirituality. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? My partner saw the recent crises as a message that we needed to get back to God. I saw it as just a string of unfortunate events, heralding nothing more than our penchant for attracting crappy situations.
She had to do a lot of talking to get me to the first meeting with a couple from the church. I went along grudgingly. I’m not a big fan of meeting new people in the first place, and when the added pressure of church was there, I was doubly reticent to go. But, go I did. I had a great time. The women we met were friendly, personable and spiritual. We decided to go with them to church that next Sunday.
Despite the great time I had meeting new people [a minor miracle in itself], I was still dubious about the whole “church experience.” I had not set foot in a church since I was a teenager. It had probably been a good six years since I had darkened the door of a church.
The music, the order of worship and the preacher on the dias brought home a whole host of unpleasant memories as I sat in the pew that first service. I didn’t see it so much then, but upon reflection, I see the hand of God in the entire service. Papa John Hose, one of the elders of UFMCC at the time [he has since died] was the guest speaker that Sunday. What an extraordinary man! His message was music to my ears, and a tonic for my broken spirit. He stood in that pulpit and told me that God loved me. Not only that, he told me that God knew I was gay because God had made me that way! Papa John Hose poured God’s love out from that pulpit directly onto me. All I could do was sit and cry. The words were beautiful, and the healing pain in my heart was exquisite. Papa John Hose spoke healing words that day, and set my spirit on a journey that has taken me here … to found a magazine to help others searching for answers and to go to seminary to continue my search for answers that I can hopefully share with others. I owe my spiritual life [if not my physical life] to Papa John Hose, and the words of God he spoke to my heart that day.
I don’t always agree with Rev. Troy Perry and the things he does. I’ve seen a lot of strife within the life of UFMCC congregations. Plenty of infighting and bad feelings have passed between MCC members here in Atlanta. But, the bad things that have happened, and the hurt feelings that have been suffered are symptomatic of any church experiencing growth. Despite the problems, MCC’s are still thriving in Atlanta.
Rev. Perry is to be commended for his courage to start this denomination. He has grown a seed of an idea into an organization that saves lives every single day. I honestly don’t know where I would be without MCC. This denomination came to me in one of the darkest moments of my life and shined the light of God into it. For that I am eternally grateful.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.