We first told you back in March about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minn., the predominantly African-American congregation that lost 72 percent of its membership after its pastor, the Rev. Oliver White, signed a resolution in support of marriage equality at a UCC conference in 2005.
With Grace UCC facing the prospect of having to close its doors, White had sent a letter to 40 other UCC congregations across the country seeking donations. After Dallas’ predominantly LGBT Cathedral of Hope, the UCC’s fourth-largest congregation, responded to White’s letter with a $15,000 “miracle donation,” the story went national and was picked up by The Washington Post.
But as COH member and Dallas Voice columnist Hardy Haberman explained in May, the Cathedral’s donation was really just a drop in the bucket, and Grace Community UCC needed to raise nearly $200,000 by July 1 to pay off its high-interest loan on the building. The church still needed a miracle — and while the national media attention had helped with donations, it had also led to death threats against White and shots being fired near the church during a wedding.
Which brings us to last Friday, when White announced that rather than extend a deadline for the loan payment, Grace UCC has opted to leave its worship space, and will instead take the $55,000 the church has raised and look for a new home. From the Star Tribune:
After days of tense negotiating this week between the church and the investor holding the loan, Grace leadership decided it did not want to keep paying to stay in the beige stucco building on the East Side of St. Paul.
White says it will be sad saying goodbye to the space congregants worshiped in for nearly 12 years, but he hopes to buy a new church using the nearly $55,000 he’s received from dozens of churches, groups and individuals nationwide.
“I’m overwhelmed with a lot of belief in the power of humankind,” he said. “It’s been an amazing display of human kindness. There will be sadness [when the congregation leaves]. But it’s still a building. We are the church. We don’t have to be in that building to be Grace Community Church.”