This 4-part document was released in Fall, 2004. Compiled of interviews and writings of Rev. Elder Troy Perry,
Founder and Moderator of MCC, this series tells the story of MCC’s beginnings from his perspective.
In 1968, a year before New York’s Stonewall Riots, a series of most unlikely events in Southern California resulted in the birth of the world’s first church group with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons.
Those events, a failed relationship, an attempted suicide, a reconnection with God, an unexpected prophecy, and the birth of a dream led to MCC’s first worship service: a gathering of 12 people in Rev. Troy Perry’s living room in Huntington Park, California on October 6, 1968.
That first worship service in a Los Angeles suburb in 1968 launched the international movement of Metropolitan Community Churches, which today has grown to 43,000 members and adherents in almost 300 congregations in 22 countries. During the past 36 years, MCC’s prophetic witness has forever changed the face of Christianity and helped to fuel the international struggle for LGBT rights and equality
These edited excerpts are from “The Lord Is My Shepherd, And He Knows I’m Gay” authored by MCC Founder and Moderator, Rev. Troy D. Perry.
In the early 1960s, Rev. Perry was defrocked as a clergyperson by a Pentecostal denomination because of his homosexuality. He spent the next several years struggling to reconcile his sexuality and his Christian spirituality.
In Part I, Rev. Perry describes the events that preceded the first worship MCC service:
A failed romance. An attempted suicide. A reconnection with God. An unexpected prophecy. And the birth of a dream…
Troy Perry had fallen deeply in love with as young man named Benny. Perry was stunned when Benny came home one day and announced the relationship was over.
I looked at him and I asked, “Benny, is it really over?” He looked at me, and smiled, and said, “Yes, It is.” And it sounded so final. My world just came tumbling down. I felt so completely lost.
I felt like a total failure at everything. I felt that there was no one I could talk to. I felt shut off from everyone. Nothing seemed worth anything anymore. Nothing had any value. There seemed to be no future. Only darkness.
But I wanted to pull myself together. I went into the bathroom and shaved. And then I started crying. I just couldn’t stop. I sat down and sobbed. I felt naked, and there was absolutely no one around me. I felt deserted by everyone and everything that I had ever known. It was hopeless—useless to even try to go on. I couldn’t even remember God. I felt as though God did not exist, so why even try to pray? I had lost something — someone — I had loved more than anything else in the world.
That was the problem, of course. Benny had taken God’s place. I had equated him with God. I had allowed him to take the place of God in my life. I had made the mistake of placing a human being before God.
In my despair, I felt that I had no choices open to me. There was no tomorrow. There was not even the present. I got up and tried to pull myself together. I opened the medicine cabinet. The first thing I saw was the razor blade. I took it in my hands. I stared at it. This was the instrument of the Angel of Death. I staggered. I managed to get into the tub; I felt totally numb. Somehow I managed to slowly and deliberately press the blade through the skin and into the flesh of my wrists. The veins popped and yielded up their dark fluid. It was thicker than I expected, and darker. I had physical sensations of numbness growing upon me. I drifted off to sleep, even though I was not at all aware of it.
The dream drifted on; I had a sense of being alive, but of being asleep, of drifting, of fading, and of being heavier and heavier. The dream became a troubled nightmare. Somewhere out there I could hear screaming. Scream after scream filtered through to me, but I couldn’t respond.
Later, I learned that Benny, the person with whom I had broken up, had come into the bathroom and discovered me in the grisly mess I had made. He screamed and ran next door to the neighbors. Well, my neighbor Marianne and a couple of her sons charged in there and took over. They tied my wrists up with cloths and rushed me off to the emergency hospital. I ended up at the Los Angeles County General Hospital.
By the time I got there, I had regained consciousness and I had really gone all to pieces. I didn’t know whether I would live or die. And I was scared. If ever I went through a nervous breakdown, that must have been it. I cried for at least three hours while waiting for some kind of medical attention. The emergency cases were really lined up.
Well, I was sitting there, crying uncontrollably, when someone walked in front of me and stood there for a minute. I was aware of this person, like a shadow before me. This person reached down and stuck a religious magazine into my hands and said, “Here. Some of us care about you!”
I looked up dumbly, and stared at this black woman. Her words hit me like a slap in the face. It snapped me out of my depression, just to hear that someone cared.
Then the woman turned and left. I never knew her name, but when I was aware that she had gone, I remembered God. My mind started working, just like someone had thrown a switch inside it. I finally recalled that I had forgotten all about God. There was still God. It had been so long since I really knew absolutely that God did exist.
I stopped crying, I looked at my soggily bandaged wrists and said, “All right, Lord, I’ve made some terrible mistakes. You just help me with them.” I felt a weight go out of my life. My whole attitude toward God and death and life had shifted. I knew that God cared about me and that God was with me, all the way – wherever that would lead me.
During those days, I grew to rely heavily on my friend and roommate, Willie Smith, who took a keen interest in me. He’d been working the night I had tried to commit suicide. He didn’t know anything about it until noon the next day. It shook him. But he stood by me.
And my next-door neighbors were of great help. Marianne and her sons were so eager to help me. They kept a close watch on me. One of Marianne’s great friends was a black woman who was a minister and of whom she often spoke. Well, I finally met her minister friend. She was small and direct, and her name was Vera Hockset. And she was truly amazing. She had remarkable, God-given insight into people’s lives.
So one Sunday afternoon, I finally met Vera. She asked how everything was going with me. And I said, “Oh I’m just fine.” She looked at me directly and said, “Well, not really.” Well, that shook me up a little.
I talked with Vera and her sincerity moved me and touched my heart somehow. Vera went on,
“Do you have some relative that was a minister? A deceased relative?
I told her, “Yes, I had a great-uncle who is deceased, and he was a Pentecostal minister.”
Vera went on to say, “You’re a minister. You always have been, and it won’t be long before you will be pastoring a church.”
I just laughed. I said, “No, I’ll never pastor a church.” She looked sternly at me and said, “Oh, yes you will. God has a ministry for you.”
That stunned me. All my life I’d always been told that by people who really knew me. And here was a total stranger telling me the same thing. My Auntie Bea used to say the same thing over and over. I remembered that Auntie Bea had one time said, “The Lord has a ministry for you. A great ministry, but it won’t be the church you’re currently in.”
I smiled at Vera and said, “No, that’ll never happen.”
But she topped my smile with one of her own that came from her own basic understanding and warmth. She started to tell me many things about myself — she told me more than anyone could possibly have known about me. It really rocked me, and I knew that his was no ordinary woman.
She had powers of insight that must have come from God.
During this time I prayed a great deal. And the Lord began to deal with me. Things became easier. My attitudes shifted. Finally with God’s help and understanding, I became convinced that He was moving me to a mission, that a vision of that mission would be revealed to me. And I knew that when it came, I must never look back; I would never have to. My journey would be forward. My course would be clear. I would know my work. It would be hard, but I would spend my life at it.
In 1968, Troy Perry was stunned when his lover Benny announced that their relationship was over. In his desperation and depression Perry attempted suicide. Following the failed suicide attempt, Perry experienced a renewed sense of spirituality. He began to pray again. And he was perplexed by the words of a stranger who prophesied, “God has a ministry for you. You are going to pastor a church.” At that time, that was far from Troy Perry’s mind. He picks up the story by sharing events that took place after the attempted suicide.
I prayed and I could feel God’s presence. God was the source of power, authority, warmth and understanding. God was the force of good, of energy, of creative positive happenings. After my suicide attempt, I would hit the gay spots once in a while. Usually I went with my friend and roommate, Willie Smith, on his nights off.
I developed a friendship with a young man by the name of Carlos. We used to talk about our basic beliefs, but Carlos would never even let me make any mention of religious beliefs. He had mentioned that he had belonged to a church, but, he agreed with Willie Smith, for him it was not the answer.
Then Carlos got arrested by the police.
For what? …Well, just for buying beer in a gay bar. He had done absolutely nothing else. It was the way the police used to harass the gay community. He was there with me, and with a couple of friends of ours. It was so unjust.
Here’s what happened:
Carlos bought a couple of beers and came back to our table, and started to sit down. A police officer in plain clothes walked up to him, flashed a badge, and said, “Come outside with me!”
They took Carlos outside, along with another friend of ours, Bill. Both men were charged with lewd conduct, handcuffed, frisked, and hauled off to jail.
We moved fast.
Some of us went right down to the jail. Now this was eleven o’clock at night. I knew Carlos had done nothing wrong. He hadn’t broken any law, and I am convinced of that to this day. But it took me until 5:30 AM to get Carlos released. It was all due to delaying tactics by the police. The booking procedure, the mug shots, the fingerprinting, just took hours. It was part of the harassment that took place far too often against the gay community in those days.
When I finally saw Carlos, I could tell he was more shaken up that I was. And I was really upset.
I took Carlos home with me. I wanted him to get cleaned up, pulled together, and have something to eat. Then we’d plan what we were going to do.
Carlos said, “You know something? I’ve never been arrested before for anything in my life. Never! And I’m 26 years old now. The police kept telling me they are going to call my employer and tell him I’m gay. I’ll probably lose my job. You know, Troy, I’ve learned one thing from this experience: People don’t really care. Nobody likes a queer.”
I tried to be helpful. “Well, Carlos, even if people don’t, I’m still convinced that God cares about you.”
Carlos just laughed bitterly. “Come on, Troy. God doesn’t care about me.”
With that, he turned and left. And when he left, I felt the weight of his disaster upon me.
I had made my way back to God enough to know that I could talk to God. So I knelt down and said, “All right God, if it’s Your will; if You want me to see a church started as an outreach into our community, You just let me know when.” And I heard a still small voice within me say,
My course was set! I had to fight to keep it from occupying all of my thoughts while I was at work. I knew that the mission was coming into focus. God wanted me to start a new church that would reach into the gay community, but that would include anyone and everyone who believed in the true spirit of God’s love, peace, and forgiveness.
My learning experience sped up. The Lord was really getting me ready. I knew that the word “church” would be in the title. In my free time, I used to think and pray about what kind of church God wanted me to found. I would sit in that little office in back of the yardage department at Sears and pray and think and dream. I knew God wanted a church where God could move. I think that’s why “church” was always in the title. Then I would ask the Lord if it was to be really an outreach into the gay community. So the word “community” got into the title. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Community meant a feeling of comradeship, a small area, a place where you knew everybody. So, it would be a community church. We would also serve a large community; we would serve all of the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles is a large urban area, so the word “metropolitan” finally came to mind, and it stuck.
Then I had to worry about how I was going to reach the gay community. There’s always the grapevine, but church services and religion aren’t usually part of that.
During this time of planning and preparing, I was such a happy individual. Willie Smith saw me walking around the house humming, smiling, and full of energy. He nailed me about it one day.
He said, “What’s eating on you?
So, I leveled with him. I said, “Well, Willie I’m sure that God wants me to start a new church.”
Willie just collapsed and said, “Oh, my God, I thought you were over all that silliness.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Willie. This is a church for us, it will serve the homosexuals, the gay community.”
Well, Willie thought that was crazy. He said, “You mean you really are serious about this religious stuff?”
I assured him that I was. I said, “I know, Willie, that it’s the thing to do. I’ve got to try and see if I can’t bring a message, God’s message, to all the gay people.”
What Willie wanted to know was this: “How are you going to organize a bunch of queens, and get them to follow any religion, or any person, or do anything together? You know how bitchy we are. We always act individually. Nobody has ever organized the gay community into anything and accomplished anything. It’s ridiculous.”
I told Willie I would go ahead anyway. “And,” I added, “we’ll do it right here.”
Willie was horrified.
He said, “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m already too much for Huntington Park. And you’re going to have all those faggots from Hollywood down here running in and out of our house to attend church services? The neighborhood just can’t take the strain!”
He just looked at me again, and said, “Okay. If you’re going to do it, go ahead. But don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Helping queens get religion isn’t anybody’s bag.”
Then he added, “But if it does work…count me in.”
So I asked Lee Glaze, owner of The Patch gay bar, about it. Lee thought it would be just great. I asked him what he thought was the best way to reach the gay community. He thought it over.
While he was thinking, I said, “I’m going to advertise it in The Advocate, I guess. What do you think about it?”
He said, “That’s a great idea. As a matter of fact, it happens that the editor of The Advocate and his lover are here in The Patch tonight. Would you like to meet them?”
I was eager to, so I went into Lee’s side office near the bar. He brought in Dick and Bill, and made the introductions. We started talking and I explained my plans. They were skeptical about what I was trying to do. Was this some kind of business venture? Just what was I up to? They weren’t sure that they wanted to sell me any advertising at all. So I really gave them my pitch. And when we finished, they not only took the ad, they gave me a good rate on it. They also told me that they might, just might, even attend a service at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), if it ever got started.
Now at that time, The Advocate was published only once a month. I decided I would advertise in the October issue which would hit the street the last week of September. So, I set the date for my first service. It was October 6, 1968. I had about two weeks between the publication of the first ad and the first worship service.
Just about ten days before the first service, my mother came down to see me. She and her husband were separating, and she was going to go back home to Florida for a vacation. She knew of my suicide attempt, of course, and she kept much closer contact with me. I visited her as frequently as I could.
Again, I’m going to have her tell, in her own words; something of the way she saw it.
“One day, I visited with Troy at his home in Huntington Park. He seemed kind of distracted and I was afraid that he was losing interest in his faith, in any kind of church or religion. And we were talking. I said to him, ‘Troy, have you ever thought about starting a church?’ Well, that stunned him. I guess I must have really read his mind. But we were talking, and he told me that a friend of his had been arrested — busted as they call it — on some kind of homosexual charge or other.
And he told how much that boy needed help. And I said to Troy, ‘Well, haven’t you ever thought about starting a church for homosexuals?’ Well, a change came over him, and he looked at me and that was it. He said that that was just what he had been praying about and that was what he was going to do. He looked so fierce and intent. He said that it had been uppermost in his mind for several weeks.”
So I began to share my dream for the church with the gays and lesbians. They almost all had the same reaction that Willie Smith had had. Some told me to forget it. We had gone through generations, even centuries, of that awful conviction that if you were a homosexual you could not be a child of God; you could not be a Christian.
I knew I was really shoveling sand against the tide to get started.
In 1968, Troy Perry was stunned when his lover Benny announced that their relationship was over. In his desperation and depression Perry attempted suicide. Following the failed suicide attempt, Perry experienced a renewed sense of spirituality. He began to pray again. And he was perplexed by the words of a stranger who prophesied, “God has a ministry for you. You are going to pastor a church.” At that time, that was the far from Troy Perry’s mind. Around the same time, a gay friend of Perry’s was harassed and arrested by the police. In his desperation, the young man said to Troy. “God doesn’t care. God doesn’t care about gay people.” That spurred Perry to hold the very first MCC worship service.
That first Sunday church service finally arrived — October 6, 1968.
I stood nervously watching the door, worried to death. I had cleaned out the living room, set up some chairs, used the coffee table for an alter. I had borrowed a robe from the Congregationalist minister that I had helped out previously. He insisted that I had to preach in a robe for that first service. I had borrowed some trays from some very close friends, Steve and his lover, Lynn. These were for communion. I set up everything, and stood in the kitchen.
Our house was one of those “shotgun” houses: From the front door, you could see all the way back. You could see right through to the back room. I could stand in the kitchen and look all the way down the hall way to the front door. I paced nervously around in my borrowed robe and clutched the Bible and thumbed through it and riffled the pages. Then, people began to gather.
My roommate and dear friend Willie Smith let them in. He greeted them, and saw that they sat down. One friend of ours brought his straight brother and the brother’s girlfriend. Other people showed. Most had heard about it, but finally, three people showed up who had read the ad in The Advocate.
There were 12 people in the living room, and I walked out, and asked everyone to stand up, and I said, “We’ll go before the Lord in prayer.” We joined hands and prayed. Then I said, “We’ll sing some hymns.” I invited everyone to turn to a page in the book. We’d borrowed the hymnals from the Congregationalist church where I had been a guest preacher the previous Easter. No one knew what to expect. Everyone was as scared as I was. They all waited around for me to lead the singing and sing out. So I did. My mother always used to say, “My boys don’t sing too well, but they sure sing loud.” And that was never more true.
As we sang, I recalled my neighbor Marianne Johnston’s reaction to the church. She thought it was a lovely idea, but she said, “You’ll be raided during your first service.”
I laughed and said, “Well, I wish the police would come in. It wouldn’t bother me at all.”
We sang several hymns. We sounded a little thin and tinny, but the spirit was what counted. We didn’t have a piano or any kind of accompaniment. Willie Smith was there, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it. He still didn’t know just what to think.
I recall I had assured Willie, just before we started, that God was in this. I said, “I know now that I’m going to be in God’s perfect will. Not God’s permissive will as I as in my past life.”
Well, we prayed again and then I relaxed.
I introduced myself.
I told about where I was born, my age, my name, my marriage, my sons, my religious background, where I went to high school and college. I talked about the churches I had pastored in Florida, Illinois and California. I said that one in Santa Ana had been the last I pastored in 1963, and here we were now, after my army hitch. I told them that I was a division manager with one of the largest retailers in Los Angeles, and that I would continue as such until the church was large enough to support a full-time minister. Even then, I was sure that that time would come.
Then I introduced the church.
I said the church was organized to serve the religious, spiritual and social needs of the homosexual community of greater Los Angeles, but I expected to grow to reach homosexuals wherever they might be. I made it clear that we were not a gay church — we were a Christian church, and I said that in my first sermon. I also told them that we would be a general Protestant church to be all-inclusive. Then I prayed again.
And then I went into my Biblical message.
My sermon was entitled, “Be True to You.” It was actually inspired by Polonius’ advice to his son, Laertes, when the young man was about to leave. It’s early in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, and it’s from those lines that go:
“This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I then moved from Shakespeare to the story of Job, to the Book of Job, chapter 19, verses 1-26, and I read them aloud.
“Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Job had learned to be true to himself. He never wavered once he made up his mind, and knew that he was called of God. His friends came and told him that he must have sinned for some reason or he wouldn’t be visited by all these things that plagued him. He lost his family.
Everything terrible happened to him. But Job’s remark to them was, “Though God slay me, yet I’ll trust in God. I’ll come forth as pure as gold.” Even going through the refiner’s fire, he knew that he would make it. And I knew that we at Metropolitan Community Church could do that too.
I also preached about David and Goliath. David said that the same God that protected him when he had to do battle once with a bear, and once with a lion would protect him again. Even when things look awfully bad to us in the gay community, God can help. And we can win, even though it looks like everything is stacked against us. So, I said, “Be true to you. Believe in yourself, and believe in God. You have to believe in yourself as a human being first, and then God is able to help you. You are not just an individual in circumstances, but you always are the created being of God.”
I pointed out that we must be humble, spiritual human beings first, homosexuals second. We must love and build, free ourselves, and free others from their feelings against us. I closed my sermon with a quote from the Epistle of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Philippians, fourth chapter, thirteenth verse, which says,
“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me!”
After I finished preaching, I closed my Bible, and I knew that God was in the place.
I prayed again, and then I looked up and said, “We’re going to have open communion,” there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. A hush fell over the place and everybody in that small living room was weeping silently. We all felt that we were a part of something great. God was preparing to move. We were to see God’s handiwork, and that would be unbelievable.
I offered communion. Only three came forward to take the bread and wine, but they were weeping. And then I served communion to myself.
We dismissed with a prayer of benediction. Then I invited everyone to stay for coffee and cake.
We gathered and we just couldn’t quit crying. We all sat around and said we had felt the spirit of the Lord. One young man came up to me, and said, “Oh, Troy, God was here this morning! I haven’t been in a church in eight years. And even when I left the church, the one I’d been in, I never felt anything like I felt here this morning, in this living room.”
When that service was finally over, Willie Smith said that he had really been moved by it. He insisted that he didn’t know yet about whether the church would actually take a hold and grow.
I said, “Willie, only God knows the answer to that.”
The first MCC service took place on October 6, 1968. Rev. Troy Perry’s friend and roommate, Willie Smith, was skeptical of Perry’s plans for a church that would minister to the GLBT communities. But after the very first service, Smith’s thinking began to change:
After that first service, Willie’s heart began to change. He said, “This MCC church just might work out, and I want you to know I’m with you all the way, 100%. And I’ll do anything I can to make it work.”
And he did. He started right then.
For the next Sunday, he scrounged up a phonograph and records of some religious music so that we could all sing to it. Aside from being an ace projectionist, Willie was also a singer, and music director. He made that his job with the new church.
The next Sunday, we were 14 instead of 12. I got up and looked around and said, “If you love the Lord this morning would you say ‘amen!'” They all shouted “amen” back to me. It’s been that way, too, since then. I also praised the Lord because we were growing.
The next Sunday we had 16 and I got up and said, “Well look at this. Thank you Jesus, we’re on the move!”
But, the fourth Sunday we had only nine, and I almost died. But here again, God had prepared me. He gave me a sermon entitled, “Despise Not the Day of Small Things.” And God gave me that sermon for Troy Perry, not for anyone there.
Lee, a friend from my army days, and now one of the regulars, said, “That morning, when you looked out in the group, and saw that it had shrunk, I could tell that you were upset. You got up and you preached, and you preached as though you meant it. I could tell you really meant it.”
I said, “Well, that was a sermon God gave especially for me.” The next Sunday we had 22 in attendance.
We’d jumped back up in attendance, and we’ve never dropped since.
As we started to grow and attract people from all kinds of different backgrounds, I knew that we would have to begin settling problems of organization, administration, doctrine and the church services. They had to be settled soon, so that everyone would be able to know and rely on the church, to really be a part of its body, of its identity. I knew that I was not starting another Pentecostal church. I was starting a church that would be truly ecumenical. I had asked the religious backgrounds of those first twelve. They were Catholic, Episcopal, and of various Protestant sects. I fervently sought to serve a really broad spectrum of our population. It would have to be a church that most could understand and easily identify with, and accept it as not being unusual or odd. It seemed to me that it should be traditional, almost like those they attended in childhood, or not too different from that.
It had to be completely honest. I knew that I couldn’t play games.
My sermons would have to do as they had always done, relate to the Scriptures and to God. This, I knew, would be the hard part. I am not an intellectual. I have never claimed to be the type of speaker that required the listeners to bring a dictionary to each session. I always regarded myself as a preacher, not as a teacher. Now, I knew that I must be both, especially for those who came to church either for the first time or after years of having no contact with God or established religion. But I also had to reestablish old links with God, but do it in a new way, that would be meaningful in our community.
Although I became the pastor and founder, I don’t really feel like a pastor, at least not in the sense I’m used to thinking of pastoring. A pastor has all the time in the world to devote to his congregation and knows all of them on a first-name basis. I used to be that way, but it wasn’t long before we’d grown so much that it was impossible. I am an exhorter, a preacher from the pulpit, an evangelist.
We kept our ad running in The Advocate. And we also got some great news coverage from that paper. We were news in the gay community. Most regular papers, especially the religious columns, ignored us. They felt that if they just ignored us, we weren’t there. People kept coming, and we kept growing. We were still holding services in my home and my house was bursting at the seams. We were looking for another place to hold services. We needed help on all fronts. I needed other theological minds to help me really finalize the way it was all developing.
And God brought them to us. One day, a fellow called and asked to meet with me. I met at a nearby coffee shop. We sat down and ordered. We were alone over in a corner, as he had suggested. The coffee came, and I said, “What’s on your mind?”
“I’m a minister, also,” he replied. “I teach at a Christian college in this area, where I am a dean. But it struck me that what you’re doing is a needed step in a new direction. And I am interested in participating.”
We had a long conversation, and that’s how my first ministerial recruit came in. There have been so many others, but the Reverend Richard Ploen was the first. One reason I was so glad to have him along was because of his education, and because of his work as a missionary. I knew that he would be invaluable in helping to set up an educational program.
We needed a really intensive ongoing program in Christian education, and Richard Ploen dug right in. His background intrigued a good many. He had been a missionary in Sudan, Africa. Among his many skills is the ability to use the sign language of the deaf mute. He taught that in MCC, and set up a section where other deaf mutes convey the sermon in sign language. Now others do that work, and teach those courses. Richard has a Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a Master of Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. He is a tireless scholar, and certainly a solid pillar of Christianity.
We had little trouble with doctrine. It was a church of doing: do love your God, do stand tall, do walk proud, do love your neighbor as yourself. These were the kinds of things that we wanted to state positively. And because of the large number of Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran people in our congregation, we relied rather heavily on those rituals.
Then we began to organize.
We decided upon such standard procedures as the one for communion. It would always be an open communion. We would always state that it was. We would extend an invitation for all to come to the Lord’s table. We would prepare ourselves by an open act of confession. We would ask for absolution, and it would be granted. We would then participate in the act of supping at the Lord’s table, by taking bread dipped in wine.
We utilized the books of worship from the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches as well as those that members of the congregation wanted considered. We experimented and we accommodated. It may sound like a hodgepodge, but what emerged was a straight line of well-organized ritual that allows for improvisation or change should any occasion within the church warrant it.
But it is not the mechanics of worship that we were concerned with. It was the substance of the act of worship that was the core of our service. We did have diversity. We needed that.
Ours was a working church, an active, growing church. We knew that the worship of God comes from the heart. So we were always free to move and grow. That’s the way it has always been. We felt that the diversity and the freedom and the real sincerity of worship would bring us together in unity. It has. We started a magazine called “In Unity.” Later that became “Keeping In Touch.” And with the advent of the Internet, it became a digital, e-mail newsletter which is today called “LeaderLink.” When we finally obtained our charter, it was as the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. In that organization we establish missions and new congregations, and our whole program of social, economic and political action.
We were about ten weeks old when we really had to move to accommodate the crowds. We had three dozen every Sunday. We were in our infancy, but we were thriving. Nothing could stop us. We all felt the thrill of discovery, and the occasional clumsiness of growing pains. We knew that we stood on the threshold of great things. God was leading us, and God was moving. We had to do God’s bidding.
People came out of the shadows, out of the closets, out of the half-world. They were drawn to the Metropolitan Community Church. For what?
Some were curious.
Some were incredulous.
We were new.
We were a novelty.
We were an item in the gay world.
We were ignored in the straight world.
But not everyone in the straight world pretended we were not there. Sociologists, professional people, teachers, professors, psychologists and the enlightened came. They made a great and lasting contribution.
Our church provided a feeling of freedom to worship, to walk with God. We knew that we were on God’s side because God loved us, too. We excluded no one. We welcomed everyone. We still do. Heterosexuals came to our first services. They do today. At least 20% of our congregation is heterosexual. Their involvement is as great as anyone’s.
And we’ve never stopped growing, not since that first service. God has blessed. Today there are almost 300 MCC congregations in 22 countries around the world. More than 43,000 people consider themselves members or adherents of Metropolitan Community churches — and MCC has touched he lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the past 36 years.
I am convinced that so long as we stay faithful to God’s calling and to God’s word, God will continue to bless Metropolitan Community Churches. There’s an old saying that goes,
“The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
And I believe that with all my heart. I really believe that.
Installation of Elder Professor Nancy Maxwell