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Building a bridge: NYC faith communities embracing Pride

Posted: 4:12 PM, Jun 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-24 16:12:55-04

Middle Collegiate Church is an oasis on Second Avenue in Manhattan for LGBTQ New Yorkers who have found a home there.

This month the church is enthusiastically joining in Pride celebrations, 50 years after the uprising at The Stonewall Inn.

“I hadn’t heard that God loved me as a queer person before I came in these doors,” Graham Bridgeman told PIX11 News.

Reverend Jacqueline Lewis leads the faith community.

"We’re working on a love revolution and we want everyone to join it," Rev. Lewis said.

Established in the 1626, Middle Collegiate Church found a new purpose in the 1980s as a crisis rocked many LGBTQ residents in the Lower East Side.

“There were lots of people living and dying from HIV AIDS,” Rev. Lewis explained.

Middle Collegiate Church did what many others would not; they performed funerals for men and women who died with AIDS.

“That’s the beginning of our progression around LGBT justice,” Rev. Lewis said..

Thirty years later, Middle Church remains on the forefront of advocacy for queer New Yorkers.

“You can use the Bible to make LGBT people think that they are an abomination and not of God, and that is simply not true,” Rev. Lewis said.

As a gay Christian, Middle was the first church where Matthew Johnson Harris felt he could just be himself.

“Middle had activated a light in me that I already knew was there, I just needed to be confirmed.“

Graham Bridgeman is the church’s first openly transgender Deacon.

“It was really amazing getting to stand in front of people and bring a scripture and bring back a word for them,” Bridgeman told PIX11.

Other houses of worship are also embracing LGBT celebrations this June, including Central Synagogue in Midtown.

The synagogue has a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display and will host a Pride Shabbat dinner.

Rabbi Nicole Auerbach told PIX11 “everyone has the right to find love and to enjoy Jewish community and to build a full Jewish life.”

Even more conservative faiths, including the Catholic Church, are also building better bonds with the LGBTQ community. Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest explained, “I think things are softening for LGBT Catholics.”

Watch those sermons below: