NE church reaches out to LGBT youth
by Angela Thomas
Nov 29, 2012 | 799 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LGBT youth have increasingly come into the spotlight in recent years with stories of intense pressure at school, as well as from their peers, their families and even their faith-based affiliations. But one pastor in Northeast Philadelphia hopes to relieve that pressure and welcome LGBT youth to an affirming and inclusive faith environment.

St. Luke’s United Church of Christ started an LGBT youth group, Rainbow Café, in September, and will host its official launch event, a holiday dance, Dec. 7. The event will be held 7-10 p.m. at the church, 11080 Knights Road.

The group is overseen by St. Luke’s out pastor, the Rev. Trent Williams, who said he was inspired by a friend’s similar effort.

“I have a friend who is a pastor in Northern New Jersey and they started an LGBT organization a few years back because they saw a need for one,” he said. “We saw the same need. There was a young man in our congregation who had recently come out and there wasn’t a lot in our area, so we thought our congregation could do the same good as my friend’s did.”

Williams grew up in Central Texas and understands how LGBT youth can feel about the frightening coming-out process.

“Being a high-school student in the early ’90s and having my own coming-out delayed for a long time, I wanted to make sure that for this generation, there was a safe space where they could be themselves and explore all the issues. If I had had something like that, it would have made a huge difference,” he said.

Williams said that to get the word out about The Rainbow Café, he and his team have been reaching out to Gay-Straight Alliances at area high schools and working closely with high-school counselors and launched a Facebook page.

The group plans to meet 4-6 p.m. the second Sunday of the month, with its first meeting on Jan. 13. Williams said the organization hopes to have movie nights and bring in various speakers to talk about LGBT-related issues with the youth.

Williams said the LGBT-affirming congregation is an uncommon entity in the Far Northeast.

“From talking with some of the parents in our congregation, we got the sense that it could be a difficult area to grow up in. It is heavily Catholic and we are one of the only congregations that is open and affirming,” Williams said. “We’ve become a safe space for a lot of people.”

The immediate goal is to get the group and its members established and then spread the idea to other congregations.

“We want to create a bond, have some good experiences together, good discussions and some social time. Hopefully that will be a kind of model for another community,” the pastor said. “The reason we are doing this is because another church paved the way. We hope it will spread and more of these programs will be around.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/RainbowCafePhiladelphia.

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