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From Age 3 to 30: Coming Out as Transgender James Sheffield ~ Atlanta, Georgia
For the Holiday Season, LGBT-Inclusive Faith Communities Provide an Extra Dose of Fellowship December 22, 2017

This holiday season, Georgians of faith are working hard to ensure everyone feels welcome celebrating with them, including LGBT Georgians.

Two of those faith leaders are Rev. Kim Sorrells and Rev. Melanie Vaughn-West. Both serve communities in the Atlanta metro area: Kim as an ordained United Church of Christ minister with the Reconciling Ministries Network, and Melanie as the Pastor for Worship, Pastoral Care and Administration at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur.

Both Kim and Melanie say it’s important during the holiday season for inclusive faith communities like theirs to work even harder at being welcoming, as it can be a difficult time of year for people who may not feel accepted by their families or existing faith community.

For LGBT people in that situation, chosen family are key—and that’s what the Church provides, according to Kim.

“One thing that is a strength within the LGBT community is the concept of ‘chosen family.’ Really lean into that during this time. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we have to be with people who don’t love and accept us.”

“One thing that is a strength within the LGBT community is the concept of ‘chosen family.’ Really lean into that during this time. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we have to be with people who don’t love and accept us.” —Rev. Kim Sorrells, United Church of Christ

And Kim says the concept of chosen family is not just for LGBT people.

“That gift of chosen family is really great, and I think people outside the LGBT community can really learn. I think it’s something we have as a gift we can share.”

That’s one of the reasons why Melanie and the other Church leaders at Oakhurst work overtime around the holidays—to ensure they can be that chosen family for their congregants who need an extra dose of fellowship.

On the second Sunday of Advent Oakhurst hosts its Moravian Love Feast, a special joint service with its sister church Friendship Baptist. Congregation members make special Moravian Love Buns and special sweetened Moravian coffee that is served during the service.  

Then there’s a Christmas Eve service that includes candles, caroling, and coffee. It always ends with congregants forming a circle of candlelight around the sanctuary and singing Silent Night.

“The families we’re naturally born into are not always the people who can affirm who we are. [The Church is] where an individual can find their chosen family—the people who can celebrate who you are, who can travel alongside you on your journey.” —Rev. Melanie Vaughn-West, Oakhurst Baptist Church

And on Christmas Day they have a Church dinner that anyone can attend, to “offer a space to people who for whatever reason don’t have a place to be that day, where they can be part of a family of faith.”

“The families we’re naturally born into are not always the people who can affirm who we are,” she says, and a healthy faith community makes up for that.

These are only a few of the ways that our faith communities are helping LGBT Georgians feel welcome this holiday season.

If you’re a person of faith whose congregation is working to foster this kind of open and affirming atmosphere, let us know and someone from our campaign may reach out to talk with you more about it.

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No #LGBTQ person, including GA's Gerald Bostock, should fear being fired or denied a promotion simply because of who they are or who they love — and #SCOTUS has the chance to affirm existing federal employment nondiscrimination protections this term. forbes.com/sites/tomspigg…

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