Ginter Park Presbyterian Invites LGBTQ’s To Weekend Events All Month
Ginter Park Presbyterian is hosting a series of Sunday school classes concerning the inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church. Jessica Rathbun-Cook, a Ginter Park Presbyterian member and organizer of the classes, said the congregation came together to make the events happen. “It is a month-long conversation on how to continue to extend our welcome to the LGBTQ community. The congregation as a whole has been working on extending our welcome in a variety of different ways.”
The series will look at different ways the church can be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. The first class, which met on January 5th, discussed the LGBTQ community in respect to the Bible. Rathbun-Cook was happy with the turnout of the first class, saying that it had high attendance and that she received good feedback from it.
This upcoming Sunday, the group will be discussing the organization ROSMY and its contributions to local LGBTQ youth.
Beth Panilaitis, the Executive Director of ROSMY, will be discussing the work she does with ROSMY, what people can do to support LGBTQ youth, as well as the resources her group provides.
The following Sunday will feature a class titled “LGwhat? What’s in a word? Exploring and Understanding Queer Terminology.” This class will explore the use of language, proper terminology, and the importance of both in the LGBTQ community. Rathbun-Cook states, “Even just by starting out talking about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. Talking about, you know, the ways of pronoun use.”
The final class, which will be held on January 26th, will feature Alex McNeill, the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, a national organization which seeks to include LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Community.
Both Rathbun-Cook and Panilaitis are glad these events are happening, and hope to see more of them in the future from Ginter Park and other church communities. “There are three places that every young person should feel comfortable and safe and accepted, and that’s at home, at school, and in their faith communities, and there are a lot of LGBTQ youth who don’t have one, two, and sometimes all three of those,” said Panilaitis, “For many young people, their faith community is a place that is like a second family to them. So, if a young person is struggling with their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or is coming out, it’s really important that their identity is accepting and supported by those in a faith community.”
Rathbun-Cook wants the LGBTQ community to see that there are Christian communities interested in reaching out and accepting the LGBTQ community. Although there may be Christians who are disinterested in providing this same acceptance, the Ginter Park congregation is not one of those communities. “I think the main thing that I take from it as a queer person, and also a member of the congregation, one thing I have appreciated most about the community there is their desire to learn and be faithful in that. You know, I think that is something I think I have been really grateful for.”
Antony Shipman is a student at Bennington College, and is interning with GayRVA/RVA Mag for the months of January and February. Antony, who is relatively new to the world of journalism, is hoping to learn more about the business by working closely with the staff of GayRVA/RVA Mag. When not at work, Antony is likely to be found giving affection to a cat or sitting in his apartment with a book in his hands.
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