by Robin Beaudoin
The current political climate might have one doubting their faith in God, in religion, and in mankind. Here to prove themselves as welcoming safe havens, particularly for LGBT+ parishioners and visitors, are several Memphis- area places of worship, with testimony from their members and pastors.
EPIPHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH
7887 Poplar Avenue
“Epiphany was established to be a very welcoming,” said Reverend Monica Weber, Pastor, Epiphany Lutheran Church: “Our congregation and our welcome extends to all persons. We’ve been faithfully and joyfully served by two accomplished Directors of Music who are gay, in fact one was married in our congregation and he and his partner were very active members before they relocated to another city.
This connection to the LGBTQ community expanded and enhanced the congregation’s awareness of LGBTQ issues, prejudices and rights, while building deep friendships that extended to the larger gay community in Memphis, through hired musicians, soloists, and friends who attended and participated in many Epiphany worship and fellowship events.
As an ordained pastor I perform same-sex marriage in line with our ELCA national body’s social statement that affirms the value and worth of all persons, regardless of sexual preference, race, ethnicity or gender; all couples, gay or straight, who seek to be married by me are asked to participate in pre-marital counseling, to foster healthy and open communication within marriage.”
NESHOBA UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST
7350 Raleigh LaGrange Road
Neshoba promotes, without regard to race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or age, the full participation of people without requiring adherence to any particular belief. Chrysti Hogan, member and volunteer, recalls her introduction to Neshoba:
“When I read that Neshoba is a welcoming congregation that celebrates LGBTQ members, as a lesbian, I felt safer than I had an any other church. Unitarian Universalist churches around the country have worked toward marriage equality for many years, and was one of the first denominations to ordain women and LGBTQ ministers.
Neshoba is a proud supporter of OUTMemphis, OUTFlix film festival, and the annual Pride Festival
and parade. We have had a contingent in the parade every year since the mid- nineties. Five years ago, I helped organize our first Pride Sunday, held two weeks following Pride every years. The tradition continues with some services led by members, and some led by our minister, Reverend Beth LeFever. Although some of our members do believe in God, many are agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, humanist, or even Pagan. All are welcome.”
HOLY TRINITY COMMUNITY CHURCH
685 S Highland
Holy Trinity church believes in a triune God, as well as that each person is on their own spiritual and personal journey. In addition to donating its space for Mystic Krewe of Pegasus Memphis meetings and events, and holding a food pantry for the community, Lee Goins explains why he visited and stayed with Holy Trinity:
“I moved here in 2007, and went to Pride that year and found Holy Trinity’s booth. Its lovely faces from the congregation smiling and talking with me to tell me about their church, I learned that the church was started by people with HIV that had been ridiculed at other churches.
It has been around for more than 27 years. We are an affirming and loving church that accepts anybody on any journey – no questions asked. I love the church because we have so many wonderful people. We have a couple that drives all the way from Holly Springs, Miss. every Sunday, and others like LaPaula Turner, who pray with people that are dying and sick in our community.
Pastor Rob is a great planner and worship leader, involved with our food pantry at church, and helps us raise money and keep it organized. Charlie Hawks has done wonders with our choir and music department.”
1ST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
1000 S Cooper Street
David Winter is known for his beautiful singing voice and bubbly personality, both of which represent First Congo’s music and service missions to the community. “I have been attending Congo since 2013” Winter said. “At the time, I hadn’t been to a church in years, having been burned by the church of my teens when I came out as gay. The people of Congo …are a church that works from the inside out, serving the community around them with daily meals, justice ministries, and intrinsic activism. They are what I thought a church should always be: charitable in every sense of the word.
“Congo became the 64th Open and Affirming church in the U.S. in 1991, and was a key group in service to the LGBT community in Memphis during the AIDS crisis. Most of all, for me, God shines through the people at Congo. Through the food laid out for the less fortunate, through the expression of art and music, and through those misfits that come together to make a congregation.
Cheryl Cornish has been the pastor for decades. She was, and is, the biggest motivator for their love of the queer community. She was a pioneer when she started – women weren’t always welcome at the pulpit.”