Teen Pride moves to the church to bring youth to the center of the LGBT community
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
A fence may be up to protect the lawn at the Melrose Hotel, but across the street at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, the doors will be wide open on Pride parade day.
As they have been doing for several years, church members will set up a table with water for thirsty parade-goers, who are welcome to sit on the steps or bring a blanket and watch the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade from the church’s grass lawn. And the doors will be open for anyone who needs a restroom.
In addition, this year the church hosts Teen Pride.
“We’re excited about our multicultural theme this year,” said Teen Pride founder Amanda Robinson. “We’re including different types of cultures to create unity in a safe environment that’s welcoming to everybody.”
The event is for teens ages 13-19 and takes place on Saturday, Sept. 17 from 2-7 p.m. in a fenced area outside the church to provide more security. The event is free for teens and $5 for adults accompanying a teen.
Entertainment for the afternoon includes DJ Azzie and a salsa performance. Drag performers, the musical group Sixteen Abandon, dancers and the rap group YBT perform in a late afternoon talent show.
Robinson said not only will security be better than last year when protesters came onto church property at Cathedral of Hope in an attempt to disrupt the event, the new location brings youth down to the heart of the LGBT community.
The Rev. Ben Hensley, who runs OLUMC’s music ministry, has been working with Robinson on Teen Pride logistics. He called Teen Pride a natural fit for the church.
“About a year ago, we went through the process of being in ministry with this neighborhood,” he said.
“We very concerned with teen homelessness, especially LGBT teen homelessness.”
Hensley said his job is just to make sure there’s a safe place for LGBT teens to go. Because of the property’s layout, there’s not a lot of room for protesters to congregate legally.
On Pride day as well, Hensley said, the church hopes to provide a safe place for teens to watch and enjoy the parade.
OLUMC Senior Pastor the Rev. Anna Hosemann-Butler has called her church’s location at the corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road “the best corner in the city of Dallas,” and is delighted youth will be at her church the day before the parade.
Earlier this year, Oak Lawn UMC affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network, whose goal is full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. So on parade day, when the church again will be marching, Hosemann-Butler said she invited members of other area Methodist churches that aren’t yet reconciling to march with them.
She said she’s torn between marching — which she did once and “had a blast” doing it — and staying at the church to distribute water and help welcome people. If it’s a particularly hot day, the church will welcome people inside, offering respite from the sun.
Paramedics will be stationed in the church’s outreach center to tend to anyone who might need them, especially if there’s a heat or alcohol-related problem. Last year, they had a scare when an ambulance was delayed because of the crowds and traffic, so this year, the church decided to have medical help on hand.
“One way or another, most folks come through this corner,” Hosemann-Butler said.
Over the past few years, the church has become such a hub of parade activity that 50 church members will be working in and around it.
“Don’t ever not be hospitable, because you’ll never know when you’ll meet an angel,” the pastor said, quoting the book of Hebrews. She added that she’s met a number of those angels on parade day.
“It breaks my heart when a young person comes over for a bottle of water and says, ‘Am I really welcome?’ or
‘Thank you for not giving up on us,’” she said.
Hosemann-Butler described parade day as one of the happiest days of the year for her church.
“It’s become a vital ministry for our people,” she said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2016.