LGBT church has had its share of struggles, but pastor says Cathedral continues to grow into new life
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
“Every church with any kind of history has its fair share of struggles,” the Rev. Jo Hudson, rector and senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.
And with 40 years of history behind it, she said, Cathedral of Hope — which celebrates its 40th anniversary July 24-25 — is no exception.
Despite those struggles, Hudson said, the church this month celebrates not just 40 years of history, but also its growth into the next 40 years with new vision and new hope.
“When this church started in 1970, most of the struggles were external. In 1970, it was dangerous to be openly gay in Dallas, and to be Christian and gay — well, that was considered an oxymoron.
“But now, 40 years later, our society has changed,” she added. “Most denominations, most faiths have at least some churches that welcome and accept LGBT people in one way or another. … But we believe there is still very much a need and a place for a church like us that is historically and predominantly gay. There is a healing and an affirmation [for LGBT people in a predominantly LGBT church] that can’t necessarily be found anywhere else.”
Although CoH remains a predominantly LGBT church, Hudson said that since its affiliation with UCC, the church has begun seeing “more and more straight couples and families coming here to worship.”
“These are straight families who want their children raised in an environment of radical welcome. These are people who are also looking for a place to belong, who are trying to rediscover Christianity,” Hudson said.
Hudson said that the CoH board recently “revisited our vision statement and our mission statement,” and reaffirmed the church’s core values to be a “large-member church, one big enough to change the way straight people think about LGBT people, to change the way LGBT people think about God, to reach out to LGBT people — especially teens — living in isolation in small towns and to redefine Christianity as a faith of radical inclusion, instead of exclusion.”
She continued, “Our mission remains the same — to reclaim Christianity as a faith of extravagant grace, radically inclusion and relentless compassion. But it has broadened, in some ways, too.”
The Cathedral, Hudson said, has begun finding new ways to collaborate and partner not only with other churches, especially its sister churches within the UCC, but also with other organizations within the LGBT community.
The most visible symbol of that renewed and expanded outreach is the Interfaith Peace Chapel. Although completion of the chapel was delayed by the economic crash of 2008-2009, Hudson said this week that construction is back on track, and the chapel should be completed by September.
“We hope to be able to dedicate the chapel in November, and we have planned a ’40 Days and 40 Nights’ celebration, with 40 events taking place between All Saints Sunday and Christmas Eve,” she said.
“This chapel will be a tremendous vehicle to continue the kind of interfaith dialog necessary to find peace, an opportunity to actively pursue peace in our own lives, in our own community, in our nation and even beyond,” Hudson said.
She said that as construction began on the interior, representatives of 16 different world faiths were invited in to place decorative plates — created by artist Donna Collins and each representing a different faith — at positions around the sanctuary. As the plates were placed, prayers from the different faiths were recited in what was “a deeply spiritual moment, a holy moment,” Hudson said.
The prayers, she explained, represent the hope that the chapel will be a place of dialog, a place of healing and a place were peace can be created — all contained with a structure that has already earned attention purely for its architectural significance.
“As excited as I am about this new building, I am more excited about what will pour forth from it,” Hudson said. “This chapel is a symbol of what our congregation has sought to do all along, from its beginning, and that is to welcome all people and transform lives.
“Right now we are in such an interesting and exciting position. We are birthing new churches, doing all the things Jesus would have us do,” she added. “It is required of us to do justice, and we have this great opportunity to live into that calling, and to still be a haven of hope for all people who are hurting.”
CoH’s 40th Birthday Party
Sunday, July 18: Presentation of the Hero of Hope Award during the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. Recipient is the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, a professor at TCU’s Brite Divinity School.
Gospel singer Cynthia Clawson will attend the morning services and will perform in concert at the church Sunday night at 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 24: Birthday Celebration at the Infomart. Begins at 7 p.m. Features live music by The Roof Raisers and a performance by comedian Judy Tenuta. After party at 10 p.m.
featuring “Judy Unplugged.” Tickets $40 for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; $80 for the entire evening, including the after party.
Sunday, July 25: 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services at the Meyerson Symphony Center, featuring a performance by Broadway star Sam Harris.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CoH
• The congregation now known as Cathedral of Hope starts in 1968 as The Circle of Friends.
• In July 1970 the congregation is chartered as Metropolitan Community Church-Dallas.
• In December 1971, MCC-Dallas moves into an office building at 3834 Ross Ave that the congregation had rented and renovated.
• In October 1976, the congregation purchases an old church building at 2701 Reagan.
• In 1984,the AIDS epidemic hits North Texas full force. The church loses hundreds of members, and the membership drops from about 500 to about 300.
• In November 1987, the Rev. Michael Piazza is chosen as senior pastor. He hires the Rev. Paul Tucker as associate pastor ministering to those with HIV/AIDS.
• In 1990, MCC-Dallas changes its name to Cathedral of Hope. The church sells the Reagan Street property and moves into temporary quarters on Maple Avenue.
• December 1992, Cathedral of Hope moves into its new facility at 5910 Cedar Springs Road.
• In July 1995, the church announces that architect Phillip Johnson will design a new cathedral.
• The John Thomas Bell Wall is dedicated on July 30, 2000.
• Congregational Life Center, is dedicated on July 28, 2002.
• In July 2003, the congregation votes to disaffiliate with UFMCC and becomes an independent congregation.
• In February 2005, the Rev. Jo Hudson is elected senior pastor and rector of the church.
• In October 2008, Cathedral of Hope becomes an official UCC congregation.
• In November 2007, ground is broken for the Interfaith Peace Chapel. Although delayed by the economic crisis of 2008-2009, construction is expected to be complete by September 2010.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.