By MEGAN STROUP
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.
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.”
“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:
- Michelle Johnstone, Unity Center of Columbia
- Kathleen Ross and Maggie Henson, SGI – USA (Nichiren Buddhist)
- David Finke and Nan George, Columbia Friends Meeting (Quaker)
- Maureen Dickmann, Rock Bridge Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Alex Innecco, soloist
- Anthony Hernandez, pianist
- Kendra Johnson, translator for the hearing-impaired