Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
The Rev. Nancy Wilson, head of Metropolitan Community Church, a worldwide inclusive Christian denomination, has shepherded over MCC Detroit since early in her career. And now, in celebration of the congregation’s 40th Anniversary, Rev. Wilson is returning for a dinner and dance celebration and to give a special Sunday morning sermon.
The upbeat theme is MoTown Big D and the Original Vandellas will also be performing at the dinner. The celebration will take place at Park Place Dearborn on Sept. 29. Wilson’s sermon will be delivered the next day at MCC Detroit in Ferndale.
Members of MCC Detroit are looking forward to Wilson’s visit, including Board Vice Moderator Jackie Walker, who said she’s proud of all Wilson has accomplished.
“She started out here at MCC Detroit and left to work at the denomination’s offices in LA. Then she became pastor of the LA church, which we call The Mother Church because that’s where it all got started. She was also pastor in Sarasota, and now she is the head of the Board of Elders, which runs the whole denomination,” said Walker.
She recalls how Wilson had an impact on her. “When I came out in 1975 I didn’t know a single gay person. I couldn’t find the bars and religion was always important to me. Rev. Wilson made everything easier.”
Walker remained part of MCC through the years, only taking a break when her children were young and she wanted to send them to Sunday school, which was not offered at MCC at the time.
Since MCC Detroit began in Highland Park in 1972, it’s had several locations. Walker explained that in 1977 the church left Highland Park and moved to Central United Methodist. From there it purchased a building in Birmingham that was later bought by the Original Pancake House and turned into a parking lot. MCC-Detroit next moved to Roseville, and most recently rents space from Drayton Avenue Presbyterian in Ferndale.
One wall of the present sanctuary displays a giant timeline that church members can decorate with photos and memories. It also includes names of members who have been lost to AIDS complications. “That was a hard time for us,” Walker said. “We would go visit people in the hospital to give them communion. So many died.”
The wall also features pictures of the various locations, pastors, events and clergy. Several current members have been attendees for more than 30 years. Now with about 150 members, and attendance at church services averaging about 90 to 110 each week, MCC has what Walker calls “a special flavor.”
“It’s partly because of the people, but also because it’s ecumenical. We have a sense of humor.” She noted “the spiritual feel of the music, from Broadway hits to old African spirituals.” Walker also values the open and affirming atmosphere of the church.
“I feel welcomed here. If I want to put my arms around my partner I can. Plus, it’s a smaller congregation so it has a more intimate feel. It’s a joyous feeling watching friends, partners and new comers lining up to share in taking communion.”
Rev. Jim Lynch is currently shepherding the congregation through the transition from the loss of Rev. Mark Bidwell, who resigned in October 2011 and died in January.
“Rev. Jim is an interim who will take the church through a selection process,” said Walker.
“We never just jump to replacing a pastor, the church always follows a process to make sure the congregation deals with issues of how the previous pastor went. Then the church does some visioning, looking at the mission and what we want in a pastor.” Walker said that the formal pastoral search process should begin around January. “We will look for a pastor who is open to new ideas from all people, who will train lay persons to take leadership positions.”
Walker sees the dinner and dance as a wonderful opportunity for members and previous members to get together. She notes that the church has come a long way since the 70s, now offering groups and activities for many ages, including a children’s ministry and connection groups which meet once a week like the book group, Bible study and a support group for cancer patients and supporters.
On an international level, MCC is involved in world-wide liberation movements. “One thing that touched my heart recently was speaking with a group of lesbians in India, where they can be killed for being lesbians,” recalls Walker. “They decided to live together and support each other. One or two would go to school and educate the others. We were able to get people to donate money to send them all to school at once. It’s part of our LGBT Christian outreach.”