A welcoming house of worship
In a challenging conservative environment, a number of the South's houses of worship have set out to prove that homosexuality and spiritual faith are not mutually exclusive concepts.
Nashville's Holy Trinity Community Church, the fastest growing church in the southeast conference of the United Church of Christ, is one of the strongest examples of this slow shift in the region's religious practices. Their mission: "To provide an atmosphere conducive to spiritual growth without regard to race, gender, orientation or social status."
As a welcoming congregation for the GLBT community, Holy Trinity has often been referred to as a "gay church," a distinction that doesn't truly represent all its attendees.
"I would challenge that and disagree with that," says Pastor Cynthia Andrews-Looper, simply known as Pastor Cindy to her faithful flock.
"Any time you have a focus on one group, it becomes whatever you're labeling it," she continues. "Our church is primarily LGBT, but as soon as you put a name on it, it's giving the impression that straights aren't welcomed. I want us to represent the diversity of God's creation. Our goal is to live out God's unconditional love for us."
To meet the needs of its burgeoning congregation, Holy Trinity offers three Sunday services (8:55 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 11:35 a.m.) The first service includes a blend of traditional and contemporary music along with weekly communion. The other two services include a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary praise and worship music.
These churchgoers get by with a little help from their friends. A fellowship time with snacks and beverages is held between services in the fellowship hall. Additionally, more than 20 small groups meet weekly in the Nashville area.
A number of celebrants have recently come from churches with more stringent standards and a focus on spiritual consequences. Holy Trinity is a safe haven for those who have experienced the negative aspects of organized religion.
"We have a lot of people who are burned out with the traditional, conservative, and judgmental churches," Pastor Cindy says. "We want to be a refreshing environment where it doesn't matter who you are. Our intention is to make this a place where people feel loved, and bring them in touch with Jesus Christ. We are not a legalistic church. We have a spirit of celebration here."
Part of this outgrowth of faith is a commitment to service. The church has begun a monthly health clinic and also offers free counseling to clients struggling with familial or societal pressures.
"Often we serve as a spiritual emergency room," Pastor Cindy says. "To have that spiritual relationship with Jesus, these people have to begin healing emotionally."
As is their holiday tradition, members of Holy Trinity will again serve as volunteers for events supporting Room in the Inn and Nashville CARES this month. Even for those who experienced hardships and heartache in the last year, Pastor Cindy preaches an attitude of gratitude.
"The holidays are a time for us to pause and focus on what you have as opposed to what you don't have," she adds. "It can be hard if you've lost a loved one or lost a job or a had a difficult year, but we have a place here where you can be open and be welcome to come as you are."
Holy Trinity Community Church is located at 6727 Charlotte Pike. You may contact them at www.HolyTrinityCommunityChurch.com.
MAJOR MILESTONES FOR HOLY TRINITY COMMUNITY CHURCH
- 1996: Holy Trinity was founded by Pastor Cindy & 25 others in October. Rented space from Unity Center for Positive Living.
- 1999: Moved to and rented space from Brookmeade Congregational, UCC.
- 2004: Established the Upper Room Fellowship.
- 2005: Took Pastor Cindy from part-time to full-time in January.
- 2006: Moved to and rented current location in January.
- 2006: Affliated with the UCC in May.
- 2007: Established the Holy Trinity Counseling Ministry.
- 2008: Became a Room in the Inn host site.
- 2011: Embarked on IMAGINE...Capital Campaign to expand facilities.