Metropolitan Community Church celebrates 40 years
Festivities begin June 4 for oldest LGBT organization
Published Thursday, 20-May-2010 in issue 1169
San Diego’s Metropolitan Community Church is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
On June 4, the church will host an ice cream social. On June 5, the singing group Prysm will perform accompanied by the Celebration Choir, and on Sunday, June 6, the denomination’s founder, Rev. Troy Perry, will preach the sermon.
“It is no exaggeration that many thousands have been touched and nurtured in the 40 years of ministry at the Metropolitan Community Church,” said Senior Pastor Dan Koeshall, whom the congregation called as senior pastor on Nov. 18, 2007, with 91 percent of the vote at a special congregational meeting. “Yet, behind each number is a real person, perhaps who was hurting, troubled, or just searching, who found hope, healing and affirmation in our faith community. It is truly about relationships, about bringing people closer to God and one another.”
Some congregants have remained with MCC since its inception. George Murphy, a member since 1971, recalled going to his first MCC service. “My first night in church, I just cried because I knew I was home,” he said.
The church, which began services in 1970, before it even had a building, is believed to be the oldest LGBT organization in all of San Diego County, said Lee Bowman, minister of communications.
Bowman recalled how founding member Al Smithson had invited Perry in 1970 to travel from Los Angeles to preach to the small congregation in the first service in a Methodist pastor’s living room. Smithson and others began a “bar ministry” by inviting gays and lesbians to attend MCC when they were temporarily meeting at a Methodist church.
MCC purchased a church building on Fern Street in 1975 after Rev. David Farrell became the senior pastor. More than 400 people were attending services, so the church moved to a 30th Street church in North Park, but it outgrew that building too and, in 2003, sold it so it could move to the LGBT Center in Hillcrest.
In the 1980s and 1990s, about one third of MCC members died from AIDS. “The women propped up the men and we all supported each other in grief,” said Al Smithson. “Those of us who lived through the AIDS era are a testimony to our strength and perseverance. We are alive and vibrant.”
The crisis prompted Farrell to start a 50-hour AIDS Vigil of prayers for those with AIDS, which later became recognized every December 1 as World AIDS Day.
In October 2009, MCC moved from The LGBT Center in Hillcrest, and had its first service in its new home at 2633 Denver Street in the Mission Bay area, where Perry, who has written two books, including The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay, will preach on Sunday, June 6 at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
Rev. Koeshall, fondly dubbed “Pastor Dan” by members of the congregation, will lead the Friday, June 4, ice cream social, which will be accompanied by an old-fashioned hymn singfest. Following the singfest, Rev. Elder Darlene Garner will conduct an all-church workshop called “Life After 40.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that God doesn’t love you because of who you are,” said Koeshall in a recent sermon.
After services each Sunday, prayer partners are available for people requesting prayer about anything. Rev. Houston Burnside is Staff Pastor. The pastors and church leaders can be reached at (619) 521-2222.