Interfaith worship service draws crowd at Pridefest

By MEGAN STROUP
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Nan George, center, a Quaker and member of the Columbia Friends Meeting, invites attendees of the Mid-Mo Pridefest to join in an interfaith service Sunday, June 13. George emphasized that the Quakers are an inclusive, peace-based church. ERIN SCHWARTZ/Missourian

The Rev. Cathy Rosenholtz received some suspicious reactions from business owners when she asked them for permission to hang fliers about an interfaith worship service at the Mid-Mo Pridefest.

Even if they didn’t say anything, Rosenholtz said she noticed the look on people’s faces when she mentioned the words “worship” and “pride” together.

“They thought it would be a protest or intolerant worship experience,” Rosenholtz said.

Once she explained that the service was actually supportive of the LGBT community, Rosenholtz said most people were excited to have the flier in their stores.

Rosenholtz, an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denomination, was one of several speakers at the outdoor interfaith worship service Sunday at Peace Park.

The service attracted about 100 people, and many other people attending Pridefest paused by the tent to listen for a few minutes between their other activities.

“We need to acknowledge that a message of love for the GLBTQA community is not what GLBTQA has always heard from the Christian church,” Rosenholtz said during her “Message of Love.”

But at this service, each and every participating group extended an invitation to the LGBT community to join them for worship, Christian and otherwise.

Joe Barone spoke on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, which he said has been supportive of the LGBT community since before the “cultural bandwagon” of the first gay pride parades in the 1970s.

Barone shared statistics from a 1967 study of Unitarian church members. The results showed that more than 80 percent of respondents favored encouraging the LGBT community through education and law.

Barone attributed his own acceptance of diversity to his parents.

“My mom and dad taught me God loved all people and taught me to look for open and affirming churches,” Barone said during his message.

Rabbi Yossi Feintuch, from the Congregation Beth Shalom, joked that he brought a “Jewish accent” to the service. Feintuch reminded the audience there are gay people in all political parties, religions and races.

“Words like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ are not cuss words,” Feintuch said. “You don’t love God by hating or hurting others.”

Dick Blount, a retired minister, spoke on behalf of the Open Door Ministry at United Methodist Church. After the service, he said he felt joy at finally seeing all the planning come to fruition.

“This was an awakening in the Columbia community of faith that will have lasting effects,” Blount said. He said the experience will serve as a cornerstone for forming the council of unity he is trying to start among several organizations in Columbia.

“What really made this successful was those people who came down here to watch,” Blount said. “It was more than we had thought would happen.”

The Rev. Heather Morgan of Columbia Hope Church, who originally came up with the idea for an outdoor worship service at Pridefest, agreed that the service far surpassed her expectations.

She said the planning group had experienced a movement toward unity and love during their process and that this movement “came through in the actual worship service.”

The following people and religious organizations also participated in the order of worship:

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