They Do Exist: Finding an Affirming Place of Worship
Part of our deepest human needs to is to have our humanity and worthiness affirmed. Some seek that validation through their work, others through their relationships or their community. Traditionally, the church is one such place that people come together for uplifting celebration. Thirty years ago, it may have seemed inconceivable that this fellowship would include visible LGBTQ members. But as we move comfortably into this millennium, there are several congregations that fully embrace all their members. Here are three.
Unity of New York
Unity of New York participates in the New Thought movement and embraces all of its congregants based on five core principles:
1. There is one ultimate power in the Universe, God the Absolute good.
2. Humans are made from the essence of God and, therefore, are inherently good.
3. Our thoughts create our experiences. We change our lives by changing our thoughts.
4. We access God within through meditation and affirmative prayer.
5. We must implement these truths daily to be in concert with God and in service to others.
As a part of the Unity Worldwide Ministries, this church bases its teaching on allegorical interpretation of the Christian Bible, A Course in Miracles, and other metaphysical teachings that illuminate universal truths. Their ministries span from courses about purposeful living to yoga to support groups for those facing chronic health challenges. On any given Sunday, one could find a guest vocalist from a Broadway show, and it’s not unusual for the ministerial staff to break out in dance. Services are held at Symphony Space, an Upper West Side anchor of arts and theater. Attending a Unity service is truly a “come as you are” experience, and the congregation is a poster child for diversity, representing every race in New York City, old and young, gay and straight, single members and families, ladies with church hats and the pastor in jeans and a t-shirt. For more information, visit their website at www.unityofnewyork.org.
Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship
Liberation in Truth, a member of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement founded in Los Angeles in 1982, approaches spirituality from a liberation theology perspective. This practice sees Christ’s teachings as inspiration to address social injustices anchored in inequality. Some of Liberation in Truth’s guiding beliefs are:
1. God is Love and Love is for everyone.
2. God is Spirit that is not defined by gender.
3. God calls for the freedom of all from oppression.
4. Though anchored in the teachings of Jesus, God is greater than religion, denomination, or school of thought.
True to this mission, LIT engages in social action focusing on the LGBTIQ community of Newark, New Jersey. This action goes beyond Sunday fellowship that affirms God as greater than human constructs of gender, religion, or race. Its affiliated social justice center, Loving in Truth, ministers through its AIDS support services, hunger outreach, and Youth programs. Services are held on Sunday afternoons in culturally rich downtown Newark. For more information about ministries or services, visit www.litufc.org.
The Riverside Church
Perhaps the largest and most traditional of the three, The Riverside Church continues the theme of affirming, liberating fellowship. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ and American Baptist Churches and noted for its gothic architecture and roster of esteemed speakers ranging from the Dr. Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, Riverside’s commitment to embracing the humanity of all through service, education, and action is evident in its mission.
“The mission of the Church is to serve God through word and witness; to treat all human beings as sisters and brothers; and to foster responsible stewardship of all God’s creation.”
There are dozens of ministries, support groups, social services, and wellness courses. These include Maranatha committed to promoting equality for the LGBT community, Coalition Against Violence Initiative targeting racist medical experimentation and research, and the Shower Program providing showering facilities and toiletries to people in need. Truly, there is something for everyone. Learn more about Riverside at www.theriversidechurchny.org.
Not in the tri-state? Not to worry. We’ve got you covered too. Visit radicallyinclusive.com to learn about The Fellowship, a coalition of LGBT-affirming churches and ministries across the country.
Also check out “Sexuality And Spirituality: A Scared Intersection Of Identities” to learn about women turning to African- and Creole-based religions due to the sexual fluidity of female and queer spirits and gods.
- Aleia Mims
Aleia Mims is a wife, mother, daughter, and sister for whom writing is a form of liberation. She shares her journey so that others may name their own experiences and realize their higher truths. Her commitment to self-empowerment was a key feature of her eleven years as a classroom teacher, and remain as such with her current work at an education non-profit in New York City. Follow more of her journey at liberationtheory.wordpress.com and on Twitter @liber8ntheory.