Monday, October 06, 2008

Happy 40th birthday, MCC!

Kittredge Cherry, left, shakes hands with Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning human rights activist from South Africa. They met at the World Council of Churches meeting in Johannesburg in 1994. She was part of the MCC delegation there.

I put together a set of photos to honor the 40th anniversary of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination that ministers primarily in the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community. The photos show highlights from my own ministry in MCC during the 1980s and 1990s.

An amazing affirmation happened when I went to the copy shop to scan these photos from my old photo albums for this blog tribute. I had been having some doubts about whether it was worth the cost and effort to post old photos of events that happened 15 or 20 years ago. When I got to Kinko’s, I needed a lot of technical assistance to work the scanning machine. The clerk was a young black guy who seemed understandably frustrated at having to go over the basics with an older white woman like me.

Then he saw the photo of me shaking hands with anti-apartheid activist Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Suddenly we connected. We had a fascinating discussion about religion, politics and Barack Obama while he happily scanned all my photos. It was a holy moment, and a reminder that the events of the past do still have meaning and power. What we did matters, and our actions live on to make an impact in the future.

MCC was founded in 1968 in Los Angeles by Troy Perry, a Pentecostal minister who was defrocked for being gay. He was incredibly brave and visionary to create a church where gays and lesbians were welcome back in 1968, when homosexuality was still considered a sin, a sickness and a crime. He put an ad in the local gay newspaper and held the first worship service in his living room on Oct. 6, 1968. Twelve people attended. Now it has grown to almost 300 churches in more than 30 countries.

I joined MCC in 1985 and became an ordained minister. I served as program director at MCC San Francisco, then joined the denominational headquarters in Los Angeles, where I had the privilege of working closely with Troy and current MCC Moderator Nancy Wilson.

I was part of many historic GLBT events, such as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Rights. These photos capture just a few moments from those memorable times.

I believe it’s important to preserve our history. In searching the Web for images from MCC, I noticed that there are a few classic photos from the 1960s to the early 1970s, and many recent photos, but almost none from the years in between. Therefore I post these images from MCC in the 1980s and 1990s as a tribute to MCC and to all GLBT people of faith who dare to believe that God loves us just as we are.

So here are the photos and the stories behind the pictures.

Protesters for gay and lesbian rights in the church picketed a National Council of Churches “Faith and Order” meeting in Berkeley, California, on March 19, 1993. The “Faith and Disorder” protest was led by Rev. Kittredge Cherry, MCC’s National Ecumenical Officer. Signs say: “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re going to church,” “Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David, me and my girlfriend,” “Thank God I’m gay” and “We’re everywhere.” People in the photo are, from left, Brian Cross (New Life MCC Berkeley member), unknown protester, Bill Pugh of MCC-SF, Kittredge Cherry, Leslie Addison of MCC-SF, and Beth Downey.

“Sometimes faith in God’s order calls all Christians to act in ways that may seem disorderly because they disrupt the social order established by human society,” Rev. Cherry said in opening remarks at the Faith and Disorder worship service held afterward in the Pacific School of Religion chapel. About half the NCC members present, including NCC General Secretary Joan Campbell, attended the service. Nearly 150 people filled the chapel. Photo by Audrey.

Kittredge Cherry speaks at Hands Around the God-Box, a prayer demonstration to end homophobia in the church. Kitt organized it as MCC's national ecumenical director. It was held at the National Council of Churches headquarters in New York City in 1994 on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. MCC founder Troy Perry is clearly visible in the crowd.

MCC founder Troy Perry, center, joins Kittredge Cherry, right, and her life partner, Audrey, in 1993, at the MCC General Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Women’s retreats were the highlight of the year at MCC San Francisco in the late 1980s. Women at the 1989 MCC-SF Women’s Retreat had fun sewing a patchwork quilt. Retreat leaders holding the quilt include Kittredge Cherry, left, who organized the retreats as MCC-SF program director.

MCC’s delegation to the World Council of Churches 1994 meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, consisted of, from left, Kittredge Cherry, MCC ecumenical director; Sylvanus Maduka, head of MCC in Nigeria; and Nancy Wilson, MCC ecumenical officer (before she was moderator). We shocked many WCC leaders by urging them to stand up against homophobia in the church, and got a warm welcome from South African GLBT Christians.

Kittredge Cherry preached at MCC of North London in February 1994.


Anonymous said...

Pretty amazing stuff! Glad to see history is being preserved by the people who went out there and did it!

Clayton said...

Hi, Kitt! I finally clicked through to experience this amazing look back. Thank you for all you have done and CONTINUE to do to connect LGBT people with their Spirit.