Sunday, October 30, 2005

Church offers home to gay African-American Episcopalians

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From the Chicago SUn-Times: 'This is a church where you can bring your whole self' October 30, 2005 BY CATHLEEN FALSANI Religion Reporter Tucked away in a cul de sac on the western edge of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood sits the Episcopal parish of St. Martin, an unlikely urban oasis that has become a thriving refuge for African-American gay and lesbian Christians and their soul mates — an eclectic mix of believers dedicated to spiritual and social justice. Fifteen years ago, St. Martin’s, like so many urban mainline Protestant and Anglican congregations, was in decline. The neighborhood that had given birth to the parish more than a century earlier had changed dramatically. Weekly attendance had dropped to about 60 people, most of them older white folks who had moved out of predominantly black Austin to Oak Park or other western suburbs. And then the Rev. Juan Reed, an openly gay, African-American, Roman-Catholic-Benedictine-monk-turned-Episcopal-priest, arrived on the scene. A larger-than-life presence — at a hulking 6 foot 7 with a bald pate, dimpled beard, enormous smile and fiercely gentle demeanor — Reed, 58, resembles what one might imagine the biblical prophets Jeremiah or Ezekiel to have been like: Commanding, wise and full of dangerous ideas about how to subvert the dominant spiritual paradigm. Turning on the lights, as it were, in the parish at 5710 W. Midway Park, was the first thing on Reed’s agenda. He began with parishioner’s hearts, gradually pushing them to face difficult issues of racism and homophobia, and after a few years moved on to the dank sanctuary blighted by an undesirable patina. To read the full article click here