Spirit of Giving: MCCGD’s coat drive for the homeless

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the holiday season kicks into high gear, the LGBT community of North Texas once again is responding in a variety of ways to help out those who are less fortunate.

This week Dallas Voice profiles five events intended to raise funds or other donations for a number of different causes. But the community’s good will doesn’t end with these events.

If you know of an individual, business or organization that is holding or participating in a charitable holiday event or effort, email the information to editor@dallasvoice.com.

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Colleen-Darraugh

Colleen Darraugh

This year for the sixth year, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas is collecting coats for the homeless.

The first delivery will go to clients of AIDS Interfaith Network, said the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, MCCGD pastor. Of people with AIDS in Dallas, that organization’s clients are among the most at-risk and most likely to be homeless, she said.

Darraugh said that the annual coat drive has expanded this year to include sweats, hoodies and socks.
“A dry pair of socks can make all the difference,” she said.

The church kicked off its holiday season of giving by participating in Saturday Night Live at AIN, in which a group prepared a weekend supper for clients and provided  entertainment. After dinner, the 27 volunteers sent AIN’s clients home with bags of granola bars, apples and oranges in addition to leftovers.

Darraugh said the need is so great, members of the church by themselves can’t provide everything AIN’s clients need.

“So we’re asking people to ask neighbors and co-workers to contribute,” she said.

They are collecting items every Sunday at the church at 1840 Hutton Drive #100 in Carrollton.

Anyone who would like to help with delivery is welcome to join. Darraugh said they have a borrowed horse trailer that they expect to be filled with items. After stopping at AIN near downtown Dallas, they will distribute items to people living on the street.

But Darraugh said the need doesn’t end at Christmas, and the church will continue collecting items to make a January delivery as well.

She said that especially those not staying in a shelter often lose what little they have when they leave their items unattended.

To arrange to make a donation during the week, to participate in the delivery of items to the homeless or for more information, call the church at 972-243-0761.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Deaths • 10.14.11

Harry Wayne Dalton, 57, of Dallas died Oct. 6.

He was born in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 6, 1954, to Zelica “Ann” Smith Dalton and Lewis Clyde Dalton Jr., and was a long-time resident of Arlington, Va., where he worked for Sprint Communications.

He moved to Texas in 1996 and became an active member and volunteer at the Carrollton Senior Center until his declining health prevented it. Dalton was a long time member of MCC Washington, D.C., and later MCC of Greater Dallas. He also participated in the MCCGD Men’s Ministry.

Dalton was preceded in death by his father and his brother, Lewis Ronald Dalton.

He is survived by his mother, Zelica “Ann” Dalton of Carrollton; his sister and brother-in-law, Lisa Dalton Perkinson and Larry Perkinson of Saudi Arabia; his nephew, Jason Kendall Perkinson of Richmond, Va.; his niece, Heather Mangum, and her husband and daughter, Matt and Hayden Mangum, of Dacula, Ga. He is also survived by his extended family and friends of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, Oct. 16, at 2 p.m. at MCC of Greater Dallas, 1840 Hutton Drive, Suite 100, inCarrollton, with the Rev. Colleen Darraugh and the Rev. Steven Pace officiating.

………………………………….

Stephen Bishop of Fort Worth died Oct. 9.

Born in Sacramento, Calif., Bishop moved to Fort Worth with his parents as a young child, living most of his life here and keeping his roots in Dallas-Fort Worth no matter where he went. He graduated from Eastern Hills High School, and then went on to Stephen F. Austin State University where he earned his master’s degree in fine arts, with a specialization in costuming.

After college, Bishop did freelance costume design in Florida and California, and then went on to design costumes for the Bristol Renaissance Fair near Chicago, Ill. He also worked for Frankels Costumes in Houston and Incredible Productions in Dallas before making his own mark on the costuming world through a joint venture with Wendy Dillard called The Creative Alliance.

Bishop and Dillard created costumes for church groups and Incredible Productions, and they coordinated the costumes for the Dallas Christmas Festival at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano for several years. One of his greatest costuming achievements were the angels in the Christmas Festival who actually seemed to fly during the performance. He also costumed the Casa Manana production of The Music Man at Bass Hall.

Bishop loved roller coasters and was a card carrying member of American Coaster Enthusiasts. He loved big band music, the Carpenters, Glee and Broadway show tunes. He was also a member of the Fort Worth Scottish Association. His family and friends offered a special “thank you” to the staff at Kindred Hospital who treated Bishop and his family with tender loving care in their time of need.

Bishop was preceded in death by his father, Tom Bishop.

He is survived by his mother, Stella Bishop; his uncle, Gordon Dollar; his cousin, Angela Bandy; his aunts, Joyce Morris and Margie Ford; his caretaker and dear, friend Edmund Wirfel; his six cats and a host of friends across the country that will miss him dearly.

Funeral services will be held Friday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m. at Shannon Rose Hill Funeral Chapel in Fort Worth with interment to follow at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to AIDS Services of North Texas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Out on the field

Scott Bloom was closeted during his high school wrestling career, but he found 4 brave gay student athletes to come out for his new documentary

MARATHON MEN | Getting teen athletes and their families to feel comfortable coming out on film was a challenge for documentarian Scott Bloom.

DAN WOOG  | Contributing Sports Writer
outfield@qsyndicate.com

There are three keys to successful documentary filmmaking: A good subject, a good story line and good luck. Scott Bloom found all three.

His goal in making Out for the Long Run — a movie about gay high school athletes — was to go beyond “the regular coming-out stories.” Bloom, a former closeted wrestler who had been terrified of being outed, ostracized or beaten up, knew there were “extraordinary individuals” out there. He wanted to highlight their accomplishments, and provide hope to LGBT people of all ages, everywhere.

The first problem was finding those young athletes. The second was convincing them — and their parents — to be filmed.

He asked organizations like GLSEN and PFLAG for help. But although he’d produced one film on Metropolitan Community Church founder the Rev. Troy Perry, and another on the “oldest gay organization in the world” (a motorcycle club), he admits he was “an unknown quantity.”

The project stalled. Then Bloom saw a Facebook page for gay athletes. With permission from creator Lucas Goodman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology rower, Bloom asked for volunteers.

He got a dozen or two responses. Some of their parents objected, and blurring faces or filming in shadows would undercut the idea of openness. Plus, Bloom hoped to include the parents’ stories, too. In the end he settled on four athletes, with a cross-section of experiences.

When he began shooting, some of Bloom’s old fears resurfaced. “I worried all over again about being ‘thrown out of the locker room,’” he says. “But everyone was very gentle to me.”

He learned that today’s gay youth “have fewer hang-ups than my generation did. They define sexuality more fluidly. That’s refreshing. It gives me hope. I was definitely not as self-aware at that age.”

Bloom’s lucky break came when he found Austin Snyder. The track star was entering his senior year at California’s Berkeley High School. (The other three athletes were already in college.) He had a great, supportive family. He was smart, popular and embraced by his teammates.

Snyder’s story would provide a counterpoint to Brenner Green, a Connecticut College runner whose father had a hard time accepting his son’s sexuality, and who stopped being invited to team dinners after coming out in high school; Goodman, who had difficulty coming out to teammates; and Liz Davenport, a soccer player from Maine whose love for sports was undermined by the bullying she endured. (She ended up “probably the most heroic,” Bloom says, “after struggling and maturing the most.”)

Snyder, a very articulate teenager, lives through what is in many ways a typical high school year. He desperately hopes to get into Brown University — but an injury causes both physical and emotional stress. The usually self-confident runner wonders if he is being punished for his sexuality.

It’s not easy being a senior — especially when you’re gay. “I’m a big romantic,” Snyder says. “High school is all about the guys getting the girls. Running helps take away the hurt of not having someone.”

Then Snyder gets the news: He’s into Brown. He goes from “the lowest low to the highest high.” In a scene repeated in homes across the country, he is giddy with excitement.

But as graduation approaches, Snyder says, “All my friends are happy and dating. I want that!”

He creates a Facebook group for cross country and track athletes heading to Brown. He joins another group for all admitted students where, he says, “all the gay men have found each other.”

Suddenly, Snyder finds someone special: a swimmer from North Carolina. Online they flirt, then talk seriously for weeks. Then, in a plot twist that would sound unbelievable in a real movie — except it’s true — Snyder qualifies for a national race. In North Carolina.

Bloom films their meeting. It’s a truly sweet scene. Later, his new boyfriend gives him a tender pre-race kiss.

The final scene also seems right out of a teen flick. Snyder delivers a graduation speech at Berkeley High. He talks about diversity and change, and urges his classmates: “Use your open-minded spirit.” Snyder’s coach says, “Austin’s story gives hope for what can be.” His father adds simply, “I’m extremely proud of Austin.”

Out for the Long Run is a powerful film. “I never expected a sports film to make people cry,” Bloom says. “But people tell me it makes them remember the fears and emotions they buried years earlier.”

And, echoing Snyder’s coach, it generates hope in unlikely places. Five rural school districts in Louisiana have bought copies for each middle and high school. The counseling director will use it as a teaching tool.

Which means its lessons will be remembered by students — gay and straight — for a long, long run.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

PHOTOS: Christian music duo (and partners) Jason & deMarco Saturday at MCC

I don’ t know how this show snuck in, but I found out about it late last week. Fortunately, one of our photographers got out to the show and snapped a few pics of the night.

The gay Christian pop duo Jason and deMarco came to Dallas for a benefit show Saturday at the Metropolitan Community Church in Carrollton. They headlined a night that also included Ray Norris, Buddy Shanahan and Kim Wisdom among others. The show was a fundraiser for AIDS Interfaith Network.

“Every dollar raised from the concert will go directly to help homeless clients with HIV/AIDS,” said Steven Pace, executive director of AIN. “We are so grateful to MCC-GD for their unwavering support.”

View more of Eric Scott Dickson’s photos from the event after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Carrollton Project hosts candidate forum tonight

Bob McCranie

Bob McCranie sends along word that the Carrollton Project, a local LGBT group, will host a candidate forum tonight for Carrollton City Council and the Carrollton/Farmers Branch Independent School District.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, 1840 Hutton Drive, #100, Carrollton.

McCranie formed the Carrollton Project in 2006 with the help of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and the Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“I’m really proud of the community we’ve built in five years,” McCranie said. “This meeting isn’t about the past or about our previous interactions with any one candidate. Everyone is walking in with a clean slate to learn about our concerns and to earn our votes. Most city elections are won or lost by 400 votes. Using the 10 percent rule, there would be 12,000 LGBT votes available in Carrollton. I’m happy that the MCC of Greater Dallas and The Carrollton Project can provide this opportunity for both groups to learn from each other.”

 

—  John Wright

Dunn wants to be a voice for LGBT Amarillo

CHURCH TIES | Amarillo mayoral candidate Sandra Dunn is a member of the board at Metropolitan Community Church of Amarillo. (James Bright/Dallas Voice)

Transgender mayoral candidate says anti-gay pastor’s campaign prompted friends to encourage her to run, but she is running to make the city better for everyone

JAMES BRIGHT  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

The opportunity to run for public office appeals to people from all walks of life. Sometimes these races attract more candidates than anyone would expect.

One such election is the mayoral race in Amarillo. There are 11 candidates registered for the May election, and transgender graduate student Sandra Dunn is hoping to motivate the LGBT community of Amarillo to put her ahead of the rest.

Although Dunn hopes she will have the opportunity to help the citizens of Amarillo, it was a few of her friends who got her to run for the office. She said they approached her after outspoken anti-gay pastor David Grisham filed to run in the election.

But Dunn’s reasons for pursing the office have nothing to do with Grisham.

“It can’t be about David Grisham,” she said. “It’s time to step forward into the light, wake everyone up, shake some cages, let people know that there are transgenders here and they can do the job.”

Dunn said the financial sector is where she hopes to make most of her changes if elected mayor.

“There’s a lot of money being spent on ideas that could be spent on infrastructure,” she said.

Safety is another area Dunn hopes to secure if elected. She said there are arrow signs throughout the city, some of which require maintenance and some of which are dangerous to drivers.

“Some of these signs are blocking stop signs,” she said.

Although Dunn only recently expressed interest in holding office, she has been involved in Amarillo politics for some time as a business owner. A retired Army reservist, holding the rank of Sgt. 1st Class, Dunn opened a military surplus store that took up about a city block. Unfortunately tragedy struck when Dunn’s business partner was beaten to death on July 29, which led to the closure of the store.

“We were building toward having a business we could run when we retired,” she said.

Dunn relied on her partner, and due to his death could not afford to keep the store open. The ripples of this tragedy have reached so far as to affect Dunn’s filing for the election.

Although she planned to transition in both name and gender early in the winter of 2010, the death of her partner made it impossible to go through with those plans. Due to the fact that she was unable to obtain a legal name change prior to the filing date of the election, Dunn was forced to register as F.E. (SandraDunn) Dunaway, using her birth name on the ballot and her name of choice as a nickname.

Dunn said her name came from an eclectic mix of influences. Dunn came from a family member for whom she has great respect, but Sandra came from a more unorthodox place.

“When I was younger I knew a bunch of girls named Sandra and they were always fun, so I went with that,” she said.

Later, Dunn and a few of her friends got together and decided she needed a middle name. After a short brainstorm, they settled on Faye — and Sandra Faye Dunn was officially born.

Despite the tragedy that befell Dunn over the past year, she has managed to maintain a stellar relationship with her family. She was married to the same woman for 16 years and is close with her kids, and Dunn said her daughter has thoroughly enjoyed her run for office.

“She has had the opportunity to do ‘Trans 101’ many times,” she said.

Although Dunn’s 25-year-old son lives in a different city, she said he is just as supportive when it comes to her campaign.

“He recognizes it’s my life and he stands beside me,” she said.

If Dunn is elected, she said the LGBT community would know they have voice that’s coming from them. She said there is still a lot of discrimination and she would like to work to combat how differences are handled in the city of Amarillo.

“You experience this mostly when applying for a job,” she said. “It’s almost like your IQ has dropped.”

Dunn said she is not trying to change the attitude of citizens of Amarillo, but will work to find a peaceful solution to their differences.

“Everyone is entitled to their beliefs,” she said. “What I’m after is to get people to open up their minds and see what these people are about. Be upfront with your beliefs, but don’t be hateful.”

Dunn said Grisham’s campaign and his group Repent Amarillo run off negative imagery and messaging. Although she has had only one encounter with him and has not personally heard him disparage her, Dunn said Grisham has poured out his opinions on his Facebook page.

“He spews a lot of hate and is very disrespectful,” she said.

Grisham isn’t alone with as far as being affiliated with a church. Dunn serves on the board of the Metropolitan Community Church of Amarillo as the secretary. She said she attends 98 percent of the church functions and enjoys the diversity in the congregation. “We have straight people who come here too,” she said.

Regardless of what happens in May, it is really a win-win situation for Dunn who will complete her masters degree in psychology online from the University of the Rockies in Colorado. She said if she doesn’t win she will most likely not run again in two years, but instead spend her time counseling transgender people like herself.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Leaving a lasting legacy

Although his years as leader of the largest LGBT church in the world weren’t without controversy, there’s no denying Michael Piazza has left a lasting impact on North Texas

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

It’s not often that the Rev. Michael Piazza gets caught at a loss for words. But as he walked through Cathedral of Hope’s columbarium recently, he simply touched the marble covering the ashes of the late activist John Thomas, gently caressing the name plate without saying a thing.

Then he turned to the other memorial plaques, many of which originally hung on the outside wall of the old Metropolitan Community Church, the building that is now the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

He pointed to one and asked if I knew him. We told each other stories about some of the people whose names hang there in remembrance. Most died of AIDS-related illnesses.

For Piazza — who is moving to Atlanta where he will take over as senior pastor of Virginia Highland Church on March 1 — leaving these people may be the hardest part of leaving Dallas. He worries that the memory of some of them will be lost.

Piazza knows Cathedral of Hope — the church known as Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas when he became senior pastor in 1987 — will be in good hands and he’s proud of the institution he helped to build.

But he still feels a great sadness at leaving behind the names in that memorial garden — the friends, church members, community leaders whose funerals he performed — at one point, as many as a dozen of them in a week.

Piazza served as senior pastor and then dean of Cathedral of Hope for 23 years. Currently, he is president of Hope for Peace & Justice and he co-founded and co-directs the Center for Progressive Renewal, an organization that trains leaders to build new and revitalize old churches within the United Church of Christ, the denomination Cathedral of Hope joined in 2006.

David Plunkett, Piazza’s assistant for the past nine years, was hired by Virginia Highlands Church to become director of church life. Last year, Plunkett moved from his position at Cathedral of Hope to become executive administrator for the Center for Progressive Renewal. He has served as Piazza’s principle proofreader for his last five books as well as most of his articles and sermons.

Piazza said that he couldn’t get his job done without Plunkett. But Plunkett downplayed his role and said he simply makes it appear that Piazza is in two places at the same time.

GOOD PARTNERSHIP | The Rev. Jo Hudson, left, said that the time she spent working with Piazza “has been a gift in my life.”

From Atlanta, Piazza will continue to co-direct the Center for Progressive Renewal. The Rev. Cameron Trimble, the other half of that team, is based there.

Piazza said that Trimble’s strength is creating new congregations while his is turning around declining congregations. Their goal is to spread the liberal UCC denomination, strongest in the northeast, across the south.

After a year of travel in his new position, Piazza said it became obvious that they needed a base of operations. Virginia Highlands, without a pastor for two years, provided that opportunity.

While his new church is large, its congregation has become quite small, something Piazza sees as a wonderful challenge.

Founded in 1923 as Virginia Highland Baptist Church, the congregation designated itself an inclusive congregation in 1993, withdrew its membership from the Southern Baptist Convention, affiliated with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and then joined the Alliance of Baptists in 1996.

In 2002, while maintaining its Baptist affiliations, the church joined UCC.

Piazza admitted there was something quite delicious about becoming the pastor of a church that once belonged to the denomination that blocked Cathedral of Hope’s membership in the Greater Dallas Community of Churches.

While First Baptist Church of Dallas still publicly denounces homosexuality, it’s former pastor, W.A. Criswell, used to denounce Piazza personally and Cathedral of Hope in general by name from the pulpit.

That doesn’t happen anymore, Piazza said, and he counts that as part of his legacy.

Ask those outside the church about Piazza’s accomplishments and they’ll mention buildings — the original Cathedral, the John Thomas Bell Wall, the Interfaith Peace Chapel and the as-yet-unbuilt, Philip Johnson-designed, new Cathedral.

Ask those who’ve worked with him or have been longtime members and one word is repeated — vision.

NEW BEGINNING | Piazza, center, celebrates the consecration of Cathedral of Hope’s new sanctuary in 1992 with then associate pastors the Rev. Carol West, left, and the Rev. Paul Tucker.

Annette and Pat, who asked that their last names not be used, were on the board of the church when Piazza was hired and were the first couple in Dallas to meet him in person.

“We picked him up from the airport,” said Annette.

Piazza had flown in from Jacksonville where he was pastor of an MCC that he nurtured from 28 members to 270 in a short time.

“He was a visionary for the church,” Annette said. “He saw potential in us. He took worship to a different level.”

She said that as soon as Piazza got to Dallas, he demanded quite a bit from the congregation: Services would start on time; dress was more respectful, and while church was a great place to meet people, it wasn’t for cruising.

Annette said those steps led to the growth that led to the new cathedral.

“The church wouldn’t be what it is today if he wasn’t there at that time,” she said.

The Rev. Carol West, now pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, calls Piazza her mentor. She was the first woman licensed and ordained under him.

While acknowledging their sometimes-stormy relationship, she said, “I think Mike is a visionary. My belief is he took this community to a place they were ready to go.”

She said that when he arrived in Dallas in 1987 in the middle of the AIDS crisis, the LGBT community was doing nothing but taking care of people with AIDS.

“He [Piazza] always had a vision of the community having more,” West said. “He helped our community get our voice.”

She called him a model for many pastors and thanked him for getting her to her current position.

Cathedral of Hope’s current senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, called Piazza “one of the best and most creative preachers I’ve ever known.”

She, too, remarked on Piazza’s clarity of vision for the church from Day One.

“He gave them courage and direction,” she said. “He made the church a visible sign of hope.”

Piazza said he did three things when he first arrived that helped the church become what it is. The first he called “big worship.”

He said when he arrived in Dallas, the church was already doing enthusiastic, joyous services well. He helped make it bigger but also made sure it was visitor friendly.

Visitors needed to be welcomed and the service had to be easy to follow, Piazza said. That included simple things like a service bulletin that was done well.

But the congregation also needed a sense of community, a sense of intimacy, Piazza believed. To accomplish that as the church grew, small groups were formed to keep people engaged.

“That way it didn’t matter how big we became,” he said.

The third component was community service, and that, Piazza said, gained the church respect.

“This church gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Piazza related a story told by the Rev. Paul Tucker, who is now senior pastor at All God’s Children MCC in Minneapolis, about a conversation he overheard at a diner in Oak Lawn.

“We were in the paper for something like air conditioning Maple Lawn Elementary School’s gym. These two old codgers were sitting behind Paul reading the paper, and they were talking about the church. One said, ‘I don’t know about this queer stuff, but that church does more good than any other church in this city.’”

One of the programs Piazza started soon after he arrived was a weekend hot meals program for neighborhood children. The area around the church on Reagan Street was very poor and children who were fed in school during the week were going hungry over the weekend.

“Men in wheelchairs with AIDS would come to feed those children,” he said. “This church became respectable.”

So respectable and even admired that even Criswell had to stop denouncing Piazza and the church from the pulpit. Groups like the KKK stopped picketing them. The council of churches approached Piazza and begged the church, to join. Piazza refused because by that time, the church had nothing to gain from council membership.

Controversy

But as the church grew, so did controversy. As the congregation raised money to build the new cathedral designed by Philip Johnson, allegations of financial mismanagement arose.

The national Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (the denomination now just known as MCC] was called to audit the Dallas church’s records.
But Cathedral of Hope’s budget was larger than the denomination’s, and the denomination was unequipped to deal with the controversy, Piazza said.

One woman who didn’t like the way the church was being managed filed a complaint of financial mismanagement against Piazza. At the time the board was overseeing financial management, not Piazza.

Because the denomination didn’t have the staff to look into the allegations, MCC hired private investigators. The investigation dragged on for months, until finally, the cathedral’s board of directors had had enough. The board members called a congregational meeting, and the congregation voted by a 90 percent margin to leave MCC.

Piazza looks back now at the conflict with a philosophical eye. He said that much of it was rooted in theology, although that never got named.

For years, the cathedral had been moving away from MCC, which Piazza said is rooted in much more conservative theology.

He said that part of the 10 percent voting against leaving were simply people who had been a member of MCC for decades.

But Piazza admits missing the significance of the vote at the time.

As they voted to leave MCC, they also elected Piazza as the pastor of the newly independent church by the same 90 percent, an overwhelming vote of confidence by any standard among churches of any denomination.

“If I didn’t piss off more than 10 percent of the congregation after being here for 17 years,” he said, that was a great accomplishment in itself. “It was one of the greatest affirmations of my life — and I missed it entirely.”

When Piazza thinks now about mistakes he’s made over the years, he quotes Michael Jordan, who said, “I missed 9,000 shots and that’s why I succeeded.”

In other words, the church moved forward by always taking chances.

Piazza said that sometimes they hired someone who turned out to be a mistake, but other times they took chances and hired people like Tucker and West, who he called heroes.

“But sometimes, you just have to make mistakes and you learn from them,” Piazza said.

Plunkett called innovation part of Piazza’s legacy. He said that he started attending services at Cathedral of Hope via the Internet while he was living in Reno.

“Television was extremely expensive,” Plunkett said, so Piazza broadcast services on the Internet.

He was ahead of the curve and his worship style came through on line.

“I felt connected to a larger community,” Plunkett said, even though he lived in a smaller city with nothing comparable to Cathedral of Hope.

Family in transition

Once Piazza decided to take the position in Atlanta, several things fell into place. He and his partner, Bill Eure, put their house on the market and had an offer the next day from the first person that looked at it.

Eure works for American Airlines, but works from home and does not need to be in Dallas for his job.

LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW CHURCH HOME | Michael Piazza said his partner Bill Eure, left, withdrew from his involvement in Cathedral of Hope when Piazza resigned from his position there, and that Eure is looking forward to beginning an active church life with Virginia Highland Church.

Piazza said that when he stepped aside at Cathedral of Hope, Eure also withdrew from the congregation. Virginia Highlands gives him a place to begin an active church life once again.
Together they raised two daughters with the girls’ mother.

Their older daughter graduates from Booker T. Washington High School in May and will be in college next year. Their younger daughter is a junior at Townview Talented and Gifted. She’ll finish the year in Dallas and the family is deciding whether she’ll transfer next year.

Eure will remain with them in Dallas for another couple of months until the house sale closes.

Hope for Peace and Justice

The future of Hope for Peace and Justice is undecided.

Piazza writes Liberating Word, the daily communication sent to 13,000 subscribers. He described the writing as a job no one else wants and one that he can continue from Atlanta.

But day-to-day management in the Dallas office will pass to someone else, he assumed.

The board is meeting this month to discuss what direction that organization will take after Piazza’s move. Its Art for Peace and Justice division also recently lost its director, Tim Seelig, who moved to San Francisco to become director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Coincidentally, Seelig and Piazza also arrived in Dallas at the same time.

Many of the Art for Peace and Justice events take place at the Interfaith Peace House so moving the group to San Francisco with Seelig was not feasible.

“You can’t replace Tim,” Piazza said. “He has such a unique place in the community.”

Piazza said that that group would reinvent itself.

Seeing the end

Cathedral of Hope will continue to change and flourish, he said.

Someday, he said, the Johnson cathedral may be built. He said that no cathedral has ever been built by a congregation alone. It takes an entire community.

“We’ve always framed it as either it happens or it doesn’t happen,” he said. “We were always really clear that if the larger community doesn’t decide to participate in it, it just won’t happen. We just don’t have the resources ourselves.”

But he said the church continues to work at building relationships with people who do have the resources.

READY TO BUILD | The Rev. Michael Piazza speaks at the 1990 groundbreaking ceremony for the church’s current facilities.

“We’ve done a piece of it and I think that’s really important,” he said.

Piazza said that when he hired Hudson as pastor, he knew, “My time here is limited.” She became the local pastor and he knew that if things worked well, she would become his replacement.

For the first two years, she worked for him. Then they switched roles.

“While she was a great pastor,” Piazza said, Hudson had never managed a multi-million dollar budget. She agreed to become the senior pastor if he stayed to help manage the church finances.

So for the next two years, he worked for her. During that time, he phased himself out. For the past year, he has had no official affiliation with the church even though his office has remained in the Peace House, which is attached to the building.

“It’s good timing for me to not be here anymore,” Piazza said. “It’s time for this place not to be haunted by my ghost.”

Hudson said that Piazza’s life has been devoted to working for justice for the LGBT community and fighting for what’s right for all people.

“Working with Michael has been glorious, creative and exciting,” she said. “Our time together has been a great gift in my life.”

She said she hopes he’ll be remembered in Dallas for single-handedly saving people’s lives.

“The work he will be doing at Virginia Highland Church will be an incredible new chapter in his life,” Hudson said.

Piazza said he runs into people at the grocery store regularly who ask him the next time he’ll be back to preach and he thinks, “I don’t work there anymore.”

But he said the transition was so gradual, “that even this congregation doesn’t know. They just think I’m off traveling.”

Many people hoped that Piazza would give a final sermon before leaving for Atlanta, but he said they’ve already transitioned. He compared that to a Texas funeral, more popular when he first arrived in Dallas, where they reopened the coffin at the gravesite after the funeral service.

“So someday I’ll come back and preach,” not in six months, but maybe in a year or two, he said. “For me, this has been a long goodbye already. We don’t need to make it any longer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Houston puts Dallas to shame by staging Texas’ Big Gay Wedding for Valentine’s Day

While North Texas could only muster one same-sex wedding, 20 gay and lesbian couples participated in a mass ceremony on Sunday at Houston’s Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, in a Valentine’s weekend event called Texas’ Big Gay Wedding. View a slideshow from the ceremony by going here.

—  John Wright

Helping build a brighter future

Members of the MCCGD celebrate their new home by helping Habitat for Humanity build a new home for a member of the congregation

LisaMarie Martinez  |  Special Contributor lisamarie1207@yahoo.com

A NEW BEGINNING  |  The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)
A NEW BEGINNING | The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)

There’s a popular saying that goes: “We can take a minute to know someone, an hour to like them, a day to love them, but it would take our  whole lives to forget them.”

These words ring very true for the most recent recipient of a Habitat home, whose family is a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas.

With their recent move to their new location in Carrollton, the members of MCCGD have already begun their mission to serve others within the surrounding communities by volunteering, this summer, to be a part of the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity project.

In the more than 20 years since it began, this branch of Habitat for Humanity has built 63 homes with a service area that includes Frisco, Celina, Melissa, Mckinney, Princeton and all the way to Farmersville.

A typical Habitat home is built within a 12-week span of time, depending on the amount of volunteer participation. The sponsors of this project were Stonebriar Community Church Frisco, led by Pastor Roy Williamson, and The Hartford. They funded the building of the house and supplied volunteers.

Additionally, groups, such as the information technology company IOLAP and churches, including MCCGD, got involved to provide the additional volunteers necessary to complete the project, which was ahead of schedule by four weeks. Key personnel, besides the volunteers, were house leader Russ Waite, volunteer coordinator Andrea Tabor and recipient mentor Dawn Serr.

Knowing the recipient personally and having her family as a member of their congregation, MCCGD Pastor Colleen Darraugh and her congregation said they were delighted to be a part of the project, even if in a small way.

“This project is about relationships; it’s about our mission, about serving, to move into the community and outside of our church walls,” Darraugh said. “It’s about meeting a need.”

There are many ways to support a Habitat build, the pastor stressed, regardless of one’s physical handicaps or scheduling conflicts.

“Collecting water or praying for the safety of the volunteers, the well being of the family or for a successful build, are just some of the ways anyone can support these kinds of projects,” Darraugh said.

Gene Goodwin, a friend of the recipient  and fellow MCCGD member, was part of the build since the beginning and helped to put up doors and paint baseboards.
Other MCCGD members who were unskilled in carpentry, like Milly Crawford and Mary Ann Miller, discovered that every job was important as they held the tall ladders when necessary or helped with clean up.

Darlene Hays of MCCGD worked on a Saturday when the frame was already standing, helping out by handing to those who needed them. By the end of her day on the project, the roof decking had been put in and the siding completed; save for the doors and windows.

Hayes said it was more than just her affiliation with MCCGD and the church’s involvement that made her want to participate in the Habitat for Humanity project.

“I’ve always been blessed with a safe home, and I will do anything I can for someone else to have that as well,” Hayes said.

The Habitat recipient said the experience was about more than just having a house built for her.

“Yes, this project will provide me with a home. But I’m getting more, because it’s about being with community and organizations, and being with other church members,” she said.

She thanked everyone who helped with the project, and said she would remember each one of them every time she walked into her new home.

While North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, as with other Habitat branches, relies on large donations from churches and organizations to fund the homes the agency builds, anyone can give donate to the organization and in any amount. Word of mouth and fundraisers are others ways by which NCC Habitat for Humanity has received support.

It takes about $60,000 to build a house and those dollars are harder and harder to come by in this economy. Habitat does not pay labor costs, which is why volunteers are vital to the organization.

For more information on North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, go online to NCC-Habitat.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Because gay Pride wouldn’t be gay Pride unless the MCC offended some right-wing motorists

Dallas Pride must be getting close, because the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas has again taken out billboards on area interstates saying — as The 33 News puts it in the above report — that “Jesus loves gays!”

This year’s billboards went up last week along Interstate 35, one near Walnut Hill and one near Regal Row. One billboard says, “Jesus affirmed a gay couple” and the other says, “The early church welcomed a gay man.”

Last year the MCC church took out similar billboards on Interstate 30 as part of the “Why Would We?” campaign.

“We knew that they were provocative and we went with a billboard that would be provocative in order to get dialogue,” MCC Pastor Colleen Darraugh explains. “If it’s not, people don’t talk about it.”

One woman tells The 33: “I don’t think it should be on a billboard. I think that if people have opinions they should keep them within their circles.”

But our new BFF Debbie Clark gets the last word: “In today’s world it’s accepted, and if people don’t accept it, I think something’s wrong with them.”

—  John Wright