Metropolitan Resurrection Community Church Celebrates 50 Years – OutSmart Magazine

Members of the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church hold a vigil for victims who lost their lives to police brutality against black people in May 2020 (photos via Facebook)

OWhen a handful of queer people began gathering for prayer meetings in a Houston apartment in 1972, marriage equality was a distant dream. Buggery laws were on the books — and still capriciously enforced in Texas. The American Psychiatric Association was still a year away from removing homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. LGBTQ Houstonians have sometimes lost their jobs and housing after being publicly exposed.

It was into this world, at the dawn of the post-Stonewall civil rights era, that the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church (RMCC) was born.

The early years

In 1972, Gregory Shelton, a founding member of CMRC, was a student at Prairie View A&M University. He had been expelled from his family home and from the Roman Catholic Church because he was homosexual and unrepentant about it. At the university library, he discovers the book The Lord is my Shepherd and He knows I’m gay by Reverend Troy Perry, who had founded the first MCC in Los Angeles in 1968. Encouraged by this book, Shelton began researching homosexual-affirming religious groups, a search that led him to Houston Prayer Meetings. Having no car at the time, Shelton got there by hitchhiking or taking a bus from Prairie View.

Assisted by missionaries from Hope MCC in Dallas, this prayer meeting grew and, in 1974, began meeting in a former bicycle repair shop on Waugh Drive. In February 1975, Resurrection became an official MCC congregation. Shelton was among the signers of the original charter and remains a member of the church to this day.

The young congregation endured the same police harassment that was common in gay bars at the time. When the Ku Klux Klan learned of the existence of the RMCC, they burned a cross outside the church and issued death threats against the pastor. As no help could be obtained from the police, worshipers formed their own security team.

Those early years were full of anxiety, notes Shelton. “We were scared at first! They knew who you were, and sometimes you were mistreated coming here. Yet the faithful mustered the courage to carry on. “Sometimes we had an attendance sheet. [Those who] were afraid to log in would use a pseudonym.

The current RMCC pastor, Reverend Elder Troy Treash, describes these times as the “sanctuary-oasis years” of the Resurrection. Despite the dangers they encountered, it was nonetheless a gathering place for gay people for spiritual support and safety.

Sunday worship at Resurrection MCC

Called to action

As the congregation grew in number, they continued to outgrow their rented spaces. In 1979 they were able to purchase a church building at 1919 Decatur Street near downtown Houston. The relationship between the growing church and the wider LGBTQ community is highlighted by a story by Iris Rodriguez, a member of CMRC for over 25 years. She first heard about Resurrection from her friend Marion Coleman, the owner of Houston’s pioneering lesbian bar, Kindred Spirits. “At the time, in the early 1980s, this bar was the community center for all lesbians in Houston,” Rodriguez explains. Coleman asked Rodriguez to attend the various religious organizations around Houston, including the RMCC. “It all started [for me] because there was a leader in our community who said, ‘We have to help our churches.’ »

This kind of community bond became central to the dominant story of the 1980s and 1990s: the AIDS crisis. Annette Beall, another longtime member and former church office worker, speaks of those years as a defining time for her. “Unexpectedly, the Church has always shown compassion,” she says. “I experienced the compassion of MCC when people had no one. People were not allowed to go to their partners’ funeral services. The families took that away from them. In this vacuum, the resurrection served people whether they were members of the church or not.

Reverend Carolyn Mobley-Bowie was on the pastoral staff at the height of the AIDS crisis, and she echoes that sentiment. She held funerals and memorial services at multiple sites around Houston — people’s homes, gay bars, and even in the bayous. “I used to follow and quit after 100,” she says.

Regarding the name of the church, Reverend Mobley-Bowie said, “There are many church rituals that include the words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ At every funeral, we said that. And so as we celebrated life. We had to believe in life beyond.

Reverend Treash sees the AIDS crisis as a turning point in the history of the Church. “The church became a more active voice, to make sure people were taken care of – that shift from retreating to sanctuary to engaging with the world on behalf of others.”

Growing pains

This change to become a more outward looking and globally engaging congregation was greatly facilitated by CMRC’s move to its current location on 11th Street in TC Jester in the Heights. Having passed the Decatur Building, the era of quiet gathering on a neighborhood side street came to an end when they moved to a highly visible campus at a busy intersection. Reverend Elder Dwayne Johnson, the lead pastor at the time of the transition, said, “We were able to expand our voice in a big way. »

Almost immediately, Resurrection began opening its doors to other community organizations for meeting spaces and events, whether spiritual, political or festive.

But just a year after moving into their new space, Tropical Storm Allison severely flooded the church campus. The congregation responded without hesitation when they gathered together the following Sunday for a day of “work and worship.”

“We had a short service that Sunday and then immediately got to work,” Reverend Johnson recalled. “I saw the determination on their faces, the fire in their eyes.” He gets emotional while telling the story. “When people think of ‘church,’ they think of a certain look and certain clothes. I looked outside and saw people wearing old work clothes and boots. is the church. The way people showed up that Sunday was absolutely on their “best Sunday” – ready to work and love their fellow man.

Over the next few weeks, two work teams were formed: one for the church campus and the other to meet the needs of worshipers’ homes which were also damaged by the flood. This awareness project quickly spread to the houses of neighbors of the faithful.

Resurrection MCC has been at the center of a number of ongoing battles for social justice. In the years leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, RMCC members and clergy made annual protest appearances at downtown Harris County offices demanding marriage licenses.

The church continues to be visible and vocal in response to the inevitable return of LGBTQ civil rights progress. They work to address issues such as gender identity, non-hierarchical family relationships, or promoting non-colonial ways of being in the world – topics not always addressed by other churches.

“I would consider us a ‘justice’ church,” says Reverend Treash. “We are engaged in anti-racism work. It is a little more difficult for the churches than [simply being a] ‘come and feel good on Sunday morning’ place. We want you to come to feel good, and to be supported, and to find a place of comfort, and be challenged to work to make the world a better place.

50 Year Celebration Events

Three major events are planned for the church’s 50th anniversary celebration, the theme of which will be “50 years of love in action.”

CMRC Fifty Fest
March 26, 10 a.m.
An outdoor family fair with activities for all ages at 2025 W 11th St.

RMCC 50th Anniversary Gala
April 23, 7 p.m.
Gala featuring thentertainment, dancing, stories, food and drink at at the ZaZa–Memorial City hotel.

50th Anniversary Sunday Worship Service
April 24

For more information, to visit resurrectionmcc.org.

This article appears in the March 2022 issue of OutSmart magazine.

Norma P. Rex