The first time I met Jim Kitchens, pastor of Second Presbyterian Nashville, I felt like I had known him all my life. He has a welcoming spirit, a quick wit and a deep love for God. This man is amazingly approachable. He loves people—period.

Kitchens joined the staff of Second Presbyterian on Oct. 1, 2003, one month after the church burned. Can’t you imagine what the church congregation must have thought? Was God trying to say, “You made a mistake. I’d rethink this one.”

Fortunately for the church family, they did not rethink their decision to bring Kitchens on as pastor. He was, however, admittedly very careful with his first few responsibilities and decisions.

 “It is important to me how I take on the role of pastor,” Kitchens says. “I’ve never wanted to be some professional holy person or a stained-glass version of anyone.”

It turns out that many in his congregation are adapting this same quality. One of his favorite characteristics about the church is how committed they are to loving one another. “I love how 82-year-old women genuinely greet 19-year-olds when they return home after being away at college.” They are genuinely committed to welcoming everyone. It isn’t just an idea, but a practice,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens is originally from Mississippi but spent 30 years in California. After such a long tenure out West, he and his wife weren’t quite sure if they wanted to return to the South. But upon visiting Nashville, they were pleasantly surprised at how cosmopolitan Music City had become. “It is Southern enough, but not too Southern,” says Kitchens.

I asked Kitchens about his thoughts concerning homosexuality. “Homosexuality is a gift, just as heterosexuality is a gift. Vet school people will tell you 10 percent of every species exhibits behavior we would call ‘gay.’ It’s a bell curve. It’s how God creates.”

Most GLBT individuals feel that this is how they have been since birth. “But that isn’t an excuse to sleep with 14 different people in a row,” says Kitchens. He goes on to say, “The Christian tradition says that there is blessing to be had from a monogamous and committed relationship and that is the place where sexual expression has its greatest moral standing.” This is a norm held for all of God’s children.

“I want to fight for gay marriage. It is hard enough to be in a relationship without any kind of true community around you,” Kitchens said. “So to be in a church family like Second Presbyterian that rallies around you when hard times come is needed. Gay couples need it just like anyone else does.”

Second Presbyterian Church Nashville is a More Light Presbyterian Church. This means they seek the full participation of GLBT people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Kitchens says, “GLBT people serve in leadership in all areas of this church. I want your readers to know that we are a church who would love for GLBT folks to be an active part of our church family.”

If you want a pastor with a great sense of humor and Godly compassion and a church that willingly welcomes you and encourages you to actively participate in ministry, try Second Presbyterian Nashville. Worship services begin at 8:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. each Sunday. Kitchens may be reached at jim.kitchens@secondpresbyterian.net.

While Second Presbyterian Nashville has been around for many years, there is a brand new church starting in Lebanon. Pastor Scott Fisher, who has worked in ministry for 20 years, started Common Ground Outreach, a nondenominational church, in April.

The church is modeled after the "emerging church movement" that seeks to make their faith and worship relevant to everyday life and more accessible to people who have had bad experiences with church or have opted to avoid most organized religion. A handful of people are currently gathering to openly discuss, and perhaps more importantly, question God, the Bible and homosexuality.

Fisher is already busy with the ministry of the church. He is focusing on areas outside Nashville by developing an HIV/AIDS Outreach.

Fisher says, “I started this church so that those who question their faith, those who aren’t church-goers or those who don’t even call themselves a Christian, will have a place to openly question God.”

Additionally, secular music as well as sacred, movie clips and television shows may be used any given Sunday as a launching point for discussion.

Common Ground meets weekly on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the clubhouse of Timberline Campground in Lebanon. Additional meetings are held in the Donelson/Nashville airport area on Sunday evenings at 5:30 p.m. at the clubhouse of Mission Priest Lake Apartments.

For directions or more info about Common Ground Outreach, contact Fisher at 615-496-5841, www.myspace.com/commongroundoutreach or scottfisher-commonground@comcast.net.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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