Church 1 of 3 to test denomination’s new HIV-positive program
The Wichita Falls Metropolitan Community Church will launch a new HIV-positive support group and promote its ongoing Alcoholics Anonymous program this month to help church members and others cope with the holiday season.
The Rev. Lea Brown said the extra support being offered during the holiday season is reflective of the 20-year-old church’s desire to make sure all of its members and others in the community are able to enjoy Christmas.
“WFMCC is committed to being a place where our community can find healing, wholeness and total acceptance,” Brown said. “As we say every Sunday, we always celebrate all of who God has created us to be.”
Brown said the church is becoming more visible in Wichita Falls, and she will be preaching at the city’s World AIDS Day Service at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1504 10th St., on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. An ensemble group from the church will sing “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” at the services, she said.
The new HIV-positive support group, “Hope for the Holidays,” will meet on Thursdays for three weeks, Dec. 7-21 at 6:30 p.m. at the church. There is no charge, and advance registration is not required.
The Alcoholics Anonymous group meets on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.
The church plans to unveil a new youth program in January, Brown said.
Church members Neil Goerz and John Forsythe will lead the HIV-positive support group, Brown said. Both men asked for the opportunity to lead a church outreach program to HIV-positive people, she said.
“They both are HIV-positive,” Brown said. “They had gone through a period where they really felt isolated themselves, and they didn’t want anyone else to be in that situation.”
Brown said the new support group is based on a new model of HIV ministry developed by the Metropolitan Community Church denomination. The Wichita Falls church is one of three churches in the international denomination chosen to try out the new model.
“It’s going to be a different model,” Brown said. “We’re going to be bringing people together not just people with HIV, but anyone affected by the disease.”
Brown said the denomination chose the Wichita Falls church to try out the model because she had sought information about expanding the church’s HIV ministry recently.
“It’s going to be more than just a support group model where folks sit around and talk,” Brown said. “It’s going to be actually doing something pro-actively in the community, raising awareness.”
Brown said Goerz and Forsythe and other church officials are concerned that not enough is being done in Wichita Falls to combat HIV infection and provide services for HIV-positive people.
“They are troubled by how much HIV is not talked about in Wichita Falls,” Brown said. “They wanted to do something to address that.”
Goerz and Forsythe said in a press release they are eager to begin their outreach efforts in Wichita Falls.
“We are excited about bringing something to this community that it desperately needs,” the men said. “And we are grateful to have this opportunity to support others using our own life experiences as gay men living with HIV.”
Brown said there currently are not enough resources for HIV-positive people in Wichita Falls.
“I think our county AIDS office does really hard work, and they do it really well,” Brown said.
“But it’s such a huge need that no one group of people can address it. It takes all of us.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.