by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
MCC Seattle has changed a lot since Reverend Ray Neal took charge of the church - so much, in fact, that the church is changing its name to represent those changes. On top of that, they're moving to the University District.
"We are a very different congregation than we were two years ago, more so than we were 38 years ago when we became the first congregation in the Pacific Northwest founded for and by LGBT persons," Neal told SGN.
The church's new name is Emerald City Metropolitan Community Church Seattle.
"When I introduce myself, people often say, 'Oh, I know about your church.' And I usually ask, 'What do you know?' They usually tell me about how the church was when they visited it five, 10, or 20 or more years ago. So I say, 'Then you really don't know us as we are today,'" Neal told SGN.
"By adding 'Emerald City' in front of our traditional name, we are trying to tell people that we are a far different church than they may remember or have ever experienced before," said Neal.
In the past two years, ECMCCS has gained a high degree of visibility, largely because of community involvement. ECMCCS has held and been the beneficiary of many different fundraisers, and the congregation has volunteered at a number of events from all segments of Seattle's LGBT community.
"We have attempted to be present whenever possible at LGBT community events," said Neal.
Although compelled to relocate due to scheduling conflicts, Neal sees the move from Temple de Hirsch Sinai, where the church has been meeting for almost six years, as an opportunity. With their move, ECMCCS will be able to hold worship service at 11 a.m. on a regular basis.
"People want to go to church, but they also want to spend time with family and friends on Sunday afternoons, or go to a game or out to the beach or the mountains," Neal told SGN. "A later afternoon worship service wasn't what most of our congregation and those we ministered to wanted."
Last Sunday, ECMCCS was able to reschedule their service time at Temple de Hirsch (1511 E. Pike St.) from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. and ECMCCS will continue to meet on Sundays at Temple de Hirsch at 11 a.m. through June 20 (there will be no service on June 27 as they will be participating in the Seattle Pride Parade). Then on July 4 they will move to the University Temple United Methodist Church (1415 NE 43rd St.) where services will continue to be held at 11 a.m.
"MCC Seattle has worshipped in the University District previously during its 38-year history," said Neal.
"At about 12:15 p.m., we will share a coffee and fellowship time with them [the congregation of University Temple United Methodist Church] each week in the lounge located between the worship areas," Neal told SGN.
"We see our move to the University District as a rebirth of our congregation and a step forward and upward toward what we want to become to Seattle and beyond. & Our denominational motto is 'Tearing Down Walls, Building Up Hope!' That's exactly what we hope to do through our move to the University District," said Neal.
"We will miss being in the Capitol Hill neighborhood," said Neal. "But we aren't leaving the Gayborhood entirely. We will still be a part of the vibrant community of LGBT persons in Capitol Hill through our participation in the AIDS Walk, Capitol Hill's Pride Festival on Broadway this month, the PRIDE Family Picnic next week, and as many other events as we can possibly participate in. "
"Our purpose remains as it always has: to be a voice of compassionate concern, letting everyone in the Queer community, which includes our straight allies, know that 'God loves you exactly the way God created you,'" said Neal.
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