As MCC of Greater Dallas prepares to move into its new permanent home, Pastor Colleen Darraugh looks back at the church’s path
LisaMarie Martinez | Contributing Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The formation of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas involved the search for spiritual self-identity, something that many people can relate to.
Now in its seventh year, as the church prepares to move into its new and more permanent home, the pastor, the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, says that her congregation and she herself have gone through many journeys, learning lessons that could apply to almost anyone’s life.
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was founded in Los Angeles in 1968. A year later, the Dallas MCC was founded.
In the 1990s, Dallas MCC changed its name to Cathedral of Hope, and that congregation later voted to end its affiliation with the MCC denomination.
There was a group of people within the CoH congregation who wanted to remain a part of MCC. So when the cathedral left MCC, that group left to form a new church, MCC of Greater Dallas.
Since 2003, MCC of Greater Dallas had many temporary homes. The congregation was housed in Hotel Dallas for about a month, then moved to the Weisfeld Center Dallas.
Weisfeld Center hosted a number of other congregations as well, said Darraugh, and often, members of other churches would arrive for their services before MCCGD had finished its communion.
So by the fall of 2004, MCCGD had moved again, this time to the Wyndham Dallas North hotel, located by the Galleria mall. The church stayed in that location for a season.
The following year, MCCGD moved again, but continued what Darraugh called its “hotel years” by holding services at the Radisson Hotel at Loop 12 and I-35. MCCGD stayed at that location for more than a year, but it was hectic one. As Darraugh explained, each Sunday after services, church members would load up the church’s belongings and take them home.
Then they would turn around and bring it all back the next weekend for the next Sunday’s services.
It was, Darraugh said, “much like when the Levites, of ancient Israel, carried the Tabernacle and set it up every time they made camp.”
By the spring of 2006, MCCGD had moved again, this time to a space at 2735 Villa Creek Drive.
This new location gave the church a beautiful entry way featuring fountains and ponds — reminders, Darraugh said, of the “living waters” of baptism.
It was a quiet space with a view of trees. Its low ceilings created multimedia challenges, the pastor said, but it had a kitchen and several rooms where the congregation could hold children’s church and fellowship, and house church offices.
And it served MCCGD well for more than four years.
But then the economy took a downturn. And with the lease renewal looming, MCCGD officials announced in May that in an effort to be “good stewards of the church’s financial resources,” the church would again be moving to a new home.
Beginning May 31, the congregation is meeting temporarily at the Holiday Inn Select in North Dallas until its new, permanent facilities are ready.
Although she declined to identify the new location yet , Darraugh said it offers a number of advantages for the congregation, including lower costs.
It is a ground floor location that has its own entrance, so the church can put up signs to let the public know where it is located.
It has high ceilings in the worship area to allow more multimedia opportunities. And the best feature of the new space, Darraugh said, is that is has fully accessible restrooms and its own temperature controls.
Lessons in transitions
Darraugh said that the church has learned many lessons through its many transitions, lessons that allow its members to understand the transitions in their own lives.
She said they learned that there is a time to figure out what to take with them from the past and what to leave behind, and when to shake off the dust of some things.
“Being in transition is no different from theMCCGD children of Israel who were in the wilderness for awhile,” the pastor said. “Sometimes we talk about being in the wilderness, as if to say we don’t know where we’re going. But God knows.
“As MCC of Greater Dallas in transition, we don’t know the exact date of when we will be in our new place. But we know that God’s looking after that and that we will be getting there in the right time,” she added. “Transition can allow you a time of rest, to focus on family and community.”
For now, MCCGD is taking a break from some of its usual programming. They are “going back to the basics,” Darraugh said, and remembering that, “where there are two or three gathered in God’s name, God is present.”
She said that the congregation is relying on “God’s Holy Spirit” as opposed to all the technology and pretty decorations to make services special.
But that doesn’t mean the church is idle as it waits for its new home. Darraugh said MCCGD’s main summer mission project is to work on a Habitat for Humanity home, the ground for which was blessed last week.
The style of worship varies from one MCC to the next, and the style at MCCGD includes contemporary praise and worship music, hymns and other creative forms of worship.
“God hears us speak in a lot of different ways, so we like to vary the styles of worship because our congregation comes from a variety of different backgrounds, and could possibly be on a journey of healing from a past spiritual abuse and moving into a healthier relationship with the divine,” Darraugh said.
The church held its second Sunday worship services at the temporary location on June 13. The service featured a mini worship concert with Darraugh and her partner, Shelly Torres-West.
Darraugh said it was their first time doing that kind of worship in their church, although they had done it in other churches they had visited.
Torres-West sang songs, and Darraugh wove the preaching and teaching between the songs. It presented a different way for people to interact with the scripture and the teaching, and allowed the music help to settle it into their soul alittle deeper.
“Some people will hear the message more so from the music, while others will hear it from the word, or from the combination,” Darraugh said. “We just hoped that our approach would allow the spiritual message soak into to people a little more.”
Although MCCGD’s primary outreach is to the LGBT community, Darraugh said everyone is welcome. The congregation consists of many generations of family, and the style may differ from one week to the next.
“The styles of worship offered are of a variety,” Darraugh said. “There will always be singing, prayer, and communion; but it will be served in a variety of ways so that it can touch people from the different traditions and the ‘no traditions’ from which they come and help people develop a growing, spiritual relationship with the divine.”
Darraugh has been the pastor of MCCGD for more than five years, and being a minister is, she said, her life’s mission.
“By being a pastor, I help people to serve in the world, love their neighbor, to make moments of heaven on earth,” she explained. “In this way, we begin to live the peace that we pray for, to help people grow up in understanding their sacred identity and their giftedness, and to be able to live fuller lives that help not only them, but also help them to help others.”
Darraugh is a Canadian immigrant who once served on the staff of Dallas MCC, before it became Cathedral of Hope. After she left the Dallas church, she was pastor of Harvest MCC of Denton for 10 years.
Darraugh said becoming pastor at MCCGD was like coming back to the congregation that first brought her from Canada to Dallas.
“Yes, it’s different, but it’s the same thread of MCC in Dallas even though it’s a different congregation,” she said. “There are people in this congregation who were part of MCC of Dallas more than 20 years ago when I first arrived. So the MCC of Greater Dallas is drawing on 40 years of history of MCC of North Texas, in Dallas; it continues to serve the mission.
“Years ago, there were not a lot of affirming congregations, and now there are. Therefore, there a lot more people welcoming the gay and lesbian communities and including them. But there still is a place for us to reclaim, tell, advance, nurture, and build,” she said.
Some people, Darraugh said, want to attend a much bigger church with more resources, where they can sit back and be part of the crowd.
But many others, she added, want what a church like MCCGD can offer: “a smaller congregation where you can really get to know people and where people can get to know you.”
“Here your gifts have to be unpacked and used. We’re hospitable, welcoming and truly caring about people,” the pastor said. “It’s a praying congregation that has helped one another through some really hard times. It’s a church where you are allowed to struggle with your spiritual questions and explore what the traditional and progressive teachings of Christianity have been and are now, and what you believe.”
She continued, “We encourage people to come with their questions. This isn’t a church that you come to because you got it all figured out. We’re on a spiritual journey of asking questions, trying to determine our purpose and meaning in life, seeking to know God better, know ourselves better, really seeking to do the great command of loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves.”
MCC of Greater Dallas currently meets at the Holiday Inn Select in North Dallas, 2645 LBJ Freeway at I-35. Services are held each Sunday at 10 a.m. No adult Sunday school or children’s worship services will be held until the church moves into its new permanent location. For more information, go online to MCCGD.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.