By Kayla Hess
Hi, my name Kayla Hess and I be walking you through the history of the New Life Metropolitan Community Church. New Life started in 1977 by meeting at a member’s house on Edwin Drive in Norfolk. Since then it has been in 15 different locations just in a span of 4 years. Despite the nomadic lifestyle, they have constantly been active in fighting for justice for LGBTQ community.
New Life church has led and organized the first marriage equality rally on the steps of the Norfolk courthouse. They participated in the protest of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and supported the Obergefell v Hodges case. Every year, they are involved with the Richmond equality Virginia lobby day. MCC was one of the first churches to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies since 1968. New life still performs holy unions for same-sex couples even though the pastor is technically breaking a law. Same-sex marriage is still prohibited in the Commonwealth even though is legal the federal level. Pastors like Henry Bryd can be arrested for this.
Background: Metropolitan Community Church is a communal denomination. It is heavily influenced by Protestant practices and focuses on Ecumenism. Ecumenism is basically the idea that all Christian denominations should work together more than they currently do.
The original Metropolitan Community Church started in 1968 by Troy Perry. He was a Pentecostal preacher, was married and had kids. He was outed and lost his credentials at his church which resulted in losing his marriage and family. He ended up in California after struggling with depression and failed suicide attempt. He felt like God was not done with him. He took an ad out in the Old Advocate (early gay publications Los Angeles) asking if there were other gay Christians looking for church services. He held his first church service at his house which only 12 people attended.
MCC now has 222 churches in over 20 different counties. 98 percent of its members are made up of the LGBTQ community. By being predominately LGBTQ, it sets them apart from other churches who say they are welcoming and affirming of queer members. Straight churches do not welcome LGBTQ members, as well as MCC does. Everyone at MCC has a chance to be ordained, welcome to worship, hold a position of leadership (females included), and be queer and a clergy member.
For New Life, their first location was at a member’s home. The second location was at the cue club. Back in the day, it was hard to find places that would rent out space to MCC churches. In the late 70’s they moved location again to St Mary’s Catholic church. It only lasted a couple of months because the bishop found out that New Life was about to start a union and kicked them out. Right after that, the church started to meet in the Unitarian church in 1979.
As they started to make a name for themselves, people associated them as the gay church. In the beginning, it was predominantly gay white men who attended the church. Over the years it has gotten more diverse racially and genderly. They were also the first few churches who started to ordain women. In the 80’s they were known as the church with HIV and aids. Aids was a huge epidemic for New life and MCC as a whole. MCC lost a whole generation of men due to HIV. The whole church community lost over 300 clergy members. As years passed and more justice work was being done, New life has become the church for human rights.