My 34 years with the UFMCC
Will you pray with me. Almighty God thank you for inviting people like us to share in your mission. You gave Paul a vision of a world won for Christ so please show us here in this your church how to play our part in making that vision a reality. Amen.
This month is history month which reminds me of an occasion a couple of years ago when telling a nephew of mine about how a bomb destroyed a house next door to us in the last war.
He looked at me and said “Uncle Bob you are part of history”
Well we all become part of history when looking back Yesterday is now history but at the church annual meeting we decided things for the future and looked back to the discisions we made a year ago. Those choices have now become part of The Village history and will be looked back upon as we grow in faith and action.
Tonight I am going to look at the history of one man and how the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was born in the USA and spread across the world.
How many times are we told that each one of us have abilities and gifts from God that make us what and who we are. In Corinthians 3 we hear how Paul told everyone that they were individuals with God given skills and gifts.
Well 50 years ago one man turned his preaching skills and beliefs into what has now grown to be The United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community of Churches throughout the world.
His name was Troy Perry.
His early years he was brought up in a Pentacostal community in the American southern States when he (like me) ran away from home and an abusive father. He was just 13 years old when Troy ran away to live with relatives and raised as a southern Baptist. By the time he was 15 years old he preached for the first time and he must have been good because he then was made a licensed Baptist preacher.
Married at 18 he became the father of two children and made a pastor for The Church of God in Illinois, a Baptist church, until he was excommunicated for his homosexuality and lost his church, his wife, and his children.
Troy was drafted into the US Army and left in 1967 trying desperately to discard his homosexuality upon his release.
With many gay friends being arrested and forced into marriage, just as was happening in the UK in the 60’s Troy was searching for answers. Continuously being told that he could not be homosexual and Christian Troy was feeling that here was the end of church for him. No church, he believed meant the end of worshipping God.
From one of his books he says.. “”I wish I could find a church somewhere that could help a lot of us. I wish there was a church somewhere for all of us who are outcast.”
He said he prayed that morning “Lord you called me to preach and now I think I have seen a niche in the ministry. We need a church, not a homosexual church but a special church that will reach out to the lesbian and gay community. A church for people in trouble and for people who just want to be near you.
So Lord if you want such a church started, and you seem to keep telling me that you do, well then, just let me know when?
Whereupon, I received my answer to an impossible dream. A still small voice in my mind’s ear …spoke and the voice said NOW
On October 6th 1968 twelve people attended the first service of Metropolitan Community Church which was held in Troy’s shared pink house in Los Angeles. It grew and over the next two years new churches sprang up around the USA. and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Churches came into being. On March 7th 1971 a building was secured in Los Angeles as the mother church and over 35 ministries had been formed around the USA.
It was to be the start of many years of struggling adversity, hate and predjudice and on January 27th 1973 in the depths of winter in the ultimate act of arson the first church was burnt down by people who hated the existance of this new church.
Over a period of 13 years from 1968 over 12 UFMCC churches were burnt down, clergy and lay people were threatened, beaten and even killed. Many churches had been desecrated and vandalised yet the United Fellowship of Community Churches continued to grow.
In 1982 I had my first introduction to MCC.
In my business I met a man who owned a demolition company solely working in the stripping out of deconsecrated churches throughout the UK. Mostly Welsh Methodist churches
Two large store rooms outside Birmingham held several hundred religious stain glass windows, some of which were over 200 years old. I had purchased quite a lot of his ecclesiastical pieces of furniture for my interior design contracts over the years. I needed a change and felt as many new churches were springing up in the USA there was a market for these beautifull stained glass windows so I photographed several hundred and drove from New York across the States through Vegas to San Francisco selling them to mostly fringe churches.
It was on this trip in a business park just outside Chicago that I met up with a couple of guys who took me to a small MCC church.
After 4 months travelling and on my return I looked out for MCC here in the UK.
I learnt that in 1973 the first UK UFMCC was established in Balham South London and the pastor was Rev Tom Bigelow. He was followed by Reverend Jean White. Jean was my first introduction to our church in 1984 before I transferred to MCC North London then run by Reverend Hong Tan and Reverend Gill Storey. From having services in Hong’s home and other peoples homes and the altar etc carted around in the boot of a car the church found a home on the first floor of Bloomsbury Baptist Church, Shaftsbury Avenue London.
It was small but expanding rapidly especially as this was at the beginning of an unknown disease sweeping the gay community. MCC’s around the world have lost over 6000 members and friends to HIV/AIDs.
I volunteered to be on the board almost from my first couple of months at MCC North London and we were working day and night with counselling, supporting and running the church. The toll was taking us almost to the point of breakdowns. But we thanked God for giving us all the extra strength and belief in what we were doing.
I remember asking who is going to counsel the counsellers as it got so stressfull
The church was growing across the continent and the UK. In 1990 I was asked by Rev Hong Tan to work on the European North Sea District Committee as the churches grew into Amsterdam. Hamburg, Stockholm and Norway and this was a very happy period of my life.
The Reverend Troy Perry visited the UK churches in 1994 and I was busy on the board of North London which had many outreaches, Ethnic Minorities, Womens Secretariat, HIV and Aids Ministry amoungst them.
He gave me a book Don’t Be Afraid Anymore and another in April 2003 signing it with “Robert We Will Win” underlining the word WILL
The United Fellowship of Community Churches now has over 250 member congregations in 23 countries and has become a powerfull voice for social justice in the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights, racial equality, health care, feeding the hungry, homelessness and much more.
I cannot say how proud I am to have been part of UFMCC for the last 34 years and seeing us continueing to provide a welcoming, inclusive community for all people regardless of our differences.