By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign
When you are a small community church with a mission to listen and be heard, what do you do?
If the church is the “Square-Inch Community,” you bring multi-textured music to the masses and raise the bar by highlighting tough social justice issues happening in our community.
So that's exactly what Pastor Steve DeRuiter chose to do by creating the free "Inch Fest" concert. The concert will be 4 p.m to 10 p.m. Friday June 20 in a parking lot in the 1000 block of Wealthy Street SE across the street from the Sparrows Coffee House.
The event features six bands offering music styles from indie alternative, to folk to Christian hip-hop to punk. And when your not jammin' with the sounds, you have the chance to get more involved with six local social justice groups - including GIFT - that will have information tables and representatives who work on tackling issues of affordable housing, sex trafficking, safe neighborhoods, and safe and affirming places to worship for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities.
"We want to promote local goodness," said DeRuiter in explaining how he chose the participating social justice organizations. "Our church is really interested in promoting local business and justice organizations and art" said DeRuiter. His small church community meets Sundays in an upper room at the Inner City Christian Federation Bldg. at 920 Cherry St. SE.
The social justice organizations represented will include the Manasseh Project which is working on educating others on what is called the sex-slave industry occurring right here in West Michigan. The project is an outreach of
Wedgewood Christian Services which is working to end the sexual exploitation of men, women and children.
"They have stats on how many of these victims are homeless and from the LGBT community, especially when LGBT kids get kicked out of their homes," said DeRuiter.
Too often, LGBT youths and young adults are ostracized by their families - based on church teachings - and wind up disconnected and on the streets.
GIFT and the "Gay Christian? Yes!" Campaign, which works to spread the message that you can be gay and Christian, will also be present. Our persistent message of hope and affirmation is crucial for youths and all who are told they are worthless and something to be dismissed just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
To be able to spread our message of hope and affirmation in the neighborhoods and on the streets of Grand Rapids is indeed a blessing for GIFT and for all those who will hear. Our website includes a growing list of inclusive churches and more churches are wanting to know how they can embrace all of God's children. We regularly connect with people of faith who attest to the difference it has made in their lives to have found a supportive faith community.
Pastor DeRuiter is a Christian Reformed Church pastor whose small community of believers come from the parent church of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.
"I want to figure out how we can best be a church for our LGBT brothers and sisters, even though our Christian Reformed Church has miles to travel. How can we approach this as a church? We have gay members, they just want to know how to be a disciple of Christ," said the pastor.
So one way to reach out to multiple communities is to create a festival. He will not be preaching at the six-hour event. He will have free Bibles available and a box for prayer requests and literature about their church. It will mostly be multiple musicians, diverse information and a chance to get to know and learn about each other. There will also be vegan treats for sale.
Other justice groups expected are Safe Haven Ministries, which provides help for women in abusive relationships. The Inner City Christian Federation which helps create affordable housing and the East Hills Council of Neighborhoods which works on community development and building strong, safe, connected neighborhoods. Square Inch Church is in the East Hills neighborhood.
"We are letting people know we are a Christian community in this neighborhood and we aim to be a safe place for you. My prayer is that people will know who we are and seek out questions about us and the universe in a Christian context," said DeRuiter.
He calls the expected music the
“the Best local Band Lineup of the Summer”
Circle Maybe: http://circlemaybe.bandcamp.
Alert (hip hop from Chicago)http://www.facebook.com/
The Soil and the Sun:http://thesoilandthesun.com/
Cains and Abels: http://cainsandabels.tumblr.
Ghost Heart: http://www.ghostheart.com/
Churches tell us of your programs and efforts to include the LGBT community and we will help spread the word on Theresa’s Table.
Send story ideas and church information toTheresa@GayChristianYes.org