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SPIRITUALITY 2018: Inner city, small town MCC church experiences vastly different

Clergy members say affirming denomination still needed in 2018 and beyond

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Metropolitan Community Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Exterior of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington. (Photo by Elvert Barnes; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a much different thing to go to a Metropolitan Community Church in a major city vs. a small town and the denomination itself, founded in the late ‘60s as a Protestant fellowship for LGBT Christians, is in a time of transition as more churches, especially in Christianity’s more liberal branches, have become affirming. Roman Catholics and evangelicals — the two largest groups of U.S. believers — are the biggest holdouts.

As Christianity’s Paschal Triduum culminates with Easter this weekend, we checked in with two regional LGBT MCC clergy to find out how their parishes are doing in 2018. Rev. Deb Coggin is pastor of New Light MCC in Hagerstown, Md. Rev. Cathy Alexander is associate pastor of MCC Washington. They responded via e-mail.

New Light MCC

Rev. Deb Coggin

New Light MCC — Hagerstown, Md.

What year was your church started? 1996

Was it always an MCC church? yes

How many weekend services do you have on a normal week? one

About how many folks walk through your doors on an average Sunday? 20-25

Are you full-time, part-time or volunteer? Part-time – 20 hours a week

What is your annual operating budget? $53,000

How do you feel the needs may be different of MCC believers/members in major cities vs. small towns or suburbs? In a small city, support and safe places for LGBT are fewer. The needs remain the same. All of us need support, a safe place to be and the affirmation that God is with us. This message is part of the DNA of MCC.

Are you doing a Good Friday or Holy Saturday service? Good Friday service is tonight at 7 p.m.

What times are your Easter services? 10:30 a.m.

How is your Easter Sunday morning worship different? We add a few extra readings and special pieces however; the base of the service remains the same.

What was your attendance for Easter 2017? 32

As the mainline churches have become more welcoming, what does MCC offer that they do not in your opinion? MCC is more than welcoming. We celebrate all of who we are as children of God. We are more than affirming. We are inclusive. Everyone is invited to full participation in the life of an MCC community of faith.

Are there many cradle Catholics and/or cradle evangelicals in your pews? As those bodies have dug in their heels against LGBT folks, how does MCC have relevance to those believers? Our congregation has many of both. It is the same for all who have been preached at as if they are evil. We help them heal and discover for themselves what God has to say. We plan services and activities so all feel accepted and comfortable. We honor some traditions of all Christian faiths while creating something new for all.

Are mainline churches in Hagerstown very affirming? In Hagerstown, we have several very affirming churches, however, most churches either tolerate or are outwardly hostile to LGBT people. We offer a safe place for healing from church abuse in all forms. We encourage the full participation in the life of our community. We seek to teach people to live in the questions of faith as opposed to declaring we have all the answers. We offer a positive biblical message about LGBT people as well as refute and explain passages which have been used to abuse LGBT people.

What kind of faith community were you raised in if any? I was 28 before I came into a faith belief with God. I quickly moved from Southern Baptist to Assemblies of God to Pentecostal to MCC. 

What’s a general scripture passage that continues to resonate with you? Romans Chapter 8 resonates with me and particularly verses 37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What’s your favorite hymn or sacred musical selection? Old hymn would be “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” Contemporary praise would be “We All Bleed The Same.”

Overall how is the MCC needle shifting? Where do you see the fellowship going in the next 10-20 years?  We are being called into accountability for being as fully inclusive as we promote. I believe we will continue to be in the forefront of the fight for justice — LGBT rights, homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, human trafficking, gun control, women’s rights, etc.  Wherever there is injustice in the world, MCC along with others will be in the fight for justice.  

Could you imagine a day where LGBT believers will be so fully integrated that there will be no need for MCC or is that too “pie in the sky” for our lifetime? Our founder, Rev. Elder Troy Perry once believed this was possible. For MCC now, it is not only the LGBT people involved in the life of MCC but heterosexuals as well as children. My wife and I adopted five girls. They are growing up in an MCC church and my hope is they will continue into adulthood with MCC, which is about more than sexuality. We believe in Gods call to help others. I believe there will always be people in need and the need for MCC to be present and active.

Rev. Cathy Alexander

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington

What year was your church started? 1971

Was it always an MCC church? Yes, it has always been under the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) umbrella.

How many weekend services do you have on a normal week? We have two services per Sunday in the sanctuary. We also have a monthly interactive service on the last Sunday of each month led by our Young Adult Ministry. These services are held at various locations throughout the city. The last Sunday reflective service was held at the National Portrait Gallery. We are also re-starting our monthly Spanish speaking prayer service.

About how many folks walk through your doors on an average Sunday? We worship about 130-150 each Sunday on site and an additional 50-60 via live streaming of our services. Also an additional 40-60 views of the videos of the service. The message of love and acceptance is getting out there. MCC-D.C. is blessed to be one of the most diverse congregations in MCC on a variety of levels.

Do you have your own building? Yes

Are you full-time, part-time or volunteer? I am full time and the Senior Pastor Rev. Elder Dwayne Johnson is full time.

What is your annual operating budget? (declines to answer)

How do you feel the needs may be different of MCC believers/members in major cities vs. small towns or suburbs? The need for shelter, food, spiritual guidance, safe streets and community are consistent and driving forces for our neighbors no matter the geography. Where people congregate in a given location may differ, the ability to get around from place to place quickly may be different, and proximity to church may be a challenge. Many times in a suburban environment, the closest MCC may be hours away. This proves to be a challenge to establishing community. In an urban environment, the unpredictability of traffic is an issue in on-site attendance. It encourages us to seek different ways to reach out to and spiritually touch people (like livestream, remote campuses and other ways to make it easier for people to connect).

Are you doing a Good Friday or Holy Saturday service? One is planned for Good Friday, yes. We also held a Maundy Thursday service.

What times are your Easter services? 9 and 11 a.m.

How is your Easter Sunday morning worship different? We usually welcome more people to our services on Easter (Christmas Eve too). We have several ministries in our worship arts ministry (9 a.m. choir, 11 a.m. choir, First Sunday Choir, Moving Spirit Dance Ministry, Eclectic Praise Band, Drama Ministry, sound board, audio/visual) who minister on different Sundays throughout any given month. Most of our ministries will offer their gifts together during our Easter Sunday Services.

What was your attendance for Easter 2017? About 300 throughout Holy Week last year.

As the mainline churches have become more welcoming, what does MCC offer that they do not in your opinion? I don’t think it is so much a matter of what one offers against the other. I believe there is enough hurt and spiritual violence in the world that requires that all of our spiritual organizations reach into the communities in which they serve to help as much as possible to counteract messages of hate, violence and harm. Is there a place and a need for MCC into the future? I would say absolutely yes, without a question or doubt in my mind.  Many of our congregants have let us know that they appreciate going to church where many in the church have similar perspectives and challenges as they do. They can come as their entire selves and the affinity communities in which they are a part — leather, drag and a variety of others.

Are there many cradle catholics and/or cradle evangelicals in your pews? As those bodies have dug in their heels against LGBT folks, how does MCC have relevance to those believers? We understand (mostly from membership class) the faith background of those who regularly attend our services. About 20-30 percent come from a Catholic background and 10 percent from evangelical traditions, 60 percent from other protestant faith traditions and a small number of those from the Jewish and Buddhist traditions. One thing that is difficult to do is to paint the denominations and the people in them with the same broad brush. There have been hurtful, spiritually violent and life threatening damage done as a result of some of these institutions. I think it is important to remain open to inviting conversation and common cause. There are things we can agree on and perhaps we can be the agents of change to enter in to conversation to impact hearts and minds. This is done on a personal level primarily and not necessarily on a denominational one.

What kind of faith community were you raised in if any? I was raised in a Christian tradition: Baptist and Catholic. 

What’s a kernel or verse in the gospel resurrection narrative that especially resonates with you or that you may be preaching on Easter Sunday? For me, the progressive message of the Jesus who defied the oppressive Roman government forces provided a new way to be in relationship with God and each other. Our theme this year is Rising Strong, influenced by Brene Brown’s book. We are encouraged to rise strong to be our authentic and truest selves.

What’s a general scripture passage that continues to resonate with you? I’m partial to the Psalms as they sing the songs of the human condition — love, joy, connection to the Divine, lament and hope.

What’s your favorite hymn or sacred musical selection? I love all kinds of music. I particularly like “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood and “My Help” by Jackie Gouche Farris (Psalm 121)

Overall how is the MCC needle shifting? Where do you see the fellowship going in the next 10-20 years? I see MCC continue to speak out for justice, and to live out Micah 6:8 “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

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Autos

Surprise rides of 2022

Fun, frugal, and full of frills

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Nissan Frontier

Each January, I list my top vehicle picks of the year. But with so many contenders this year, the focus this time is on surprise rides: Three solid choices that are unexpectedly fun, frugal and full of frills.

NISSAN FRONTIER
$29,000
Mpg: 18 city/24 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.3 seconds

Sure, Tesla, Rivian and other newcomers may be garnering lots of press these days. But other automakers also have been upping their game. Cue the Nissan Frontier pickup, completely redesigned with bold, bad-boy styling. This includes a pugnacious grill, menacing headlights and sleek LED taillights. Inside, new laminated side windows reduce wind and road noise. Refined, soft-touch surfaces are a pleasant surprise, as are various clever storage spaces. And then there are the zero-gravity seats, built to alleviate driver fatigue. Despite the space-age description, these NASA-inspired seats have a traditional design but are built with 14 different pressure points to reduce stress on tired muscles. They may not be as fancy as massaging seats in luxury vehicles, but they feel just as effective. Other cabin niceties include large easy-to-read gauges and an optional 9-inch touchscreen, along with wireless charging, Wi-Fi and 10-speaker Fender stereo. One minor annoyance: the steering column tilts but has no telescopic function. While there may be a few less-expensive pickups on dealer lots, none come with as many features. As for performance, the 310-horsepower V6 is the best in its class, and overall handling is more akin to a well-mannered SUV than a workhorse hauler. For off-road enthusiasts, a Pro-4X model comes with heavy-duty Bilstein shocks, electronic locking rear differential for better grip and beefy all-terrain tires.

JEEP WAGONEER
$60,000
16 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.3 seconds

Jeep Wagoneer

While oversized rides don’t really fit my urban identity, the all-new Jeep Wagoneer had me almost pining for a Brady Bunch lifestyle in the burbs. Out of production since 1991, this resurrected land yacht made me feel safe and secure on the road. It also tapped into my love of a beloved cruiser: the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon that I drove across country in my 20s. (Alas, those tawdry travel tales are another story.) But while such behemoths may be described as big and boxy, the Wagoneer is definitely chic, echoing many of the more sculpted elements of a ritzy Range Rover. Powered by a gutsy V8 Hemi engine, this super-sized SUV quickly hustles down the road. A mild-hybrid system not only helps conserve fuel but also adds some extra oomph. Front-wheel drive comes standard, though many buyers will prefer one of the four-wheel-drive options for even better drivability. Air suspension lets you raise and lower the Wagoneer, which has up to 10 inches of ground clearance and can trek through two feet of water. Along with offering more standard features than most competitors, there’s also more second- and third-row legroom. The rich interior, with contrast piping and stitching on the seats, includes a wraparound dashboard with up to three large screens. Two more screens are available for rear-seat passengers, who can stream thousands of programs via the Wi-Fi. Notable amenities include automated parking, rear-seat monitoring camera and premium 19-speaker McIntosh stereo. Fully loaded, a Wagoneer can reach $75,000. That’s still less than the primo Grand Wagoneer ($89,000), which can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a wickedly fast 5.7 seconds. That glam model, with goodies such as a refrigerated front console and a hidden touchpad safe to store valuables, can easily top $100,000.

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER
$28,000
Mpg: 24 city/31 highway
0 to 60 mph: 8.6 seconds

Mitsubishi Outlander

Of the three vehicles reviewed here, the updated Mitsubishi Outlander was the biggest surprise. After all, the automaker isn’t the most popular or reliable brand on the block. But like a washed-up diva making a stunning comeback, the Outlander is now taking its star turn in the highly competitive crossover market. The overall styling is dazzling, with sheet metal that has been stretched and pulled into an edgy origami design. Built on the same platform as the Nissan Rogue, this new Outlander is taller, wider and longer than that popular compact. It also offers a third seat, even if legroom here is miniscule. And despite what is a capable but rather tepid engine, the Outlander handling is crisp and spirited. Driver visibility is especially good, and I found the cabin to be pleasantly quiet. But most notable are all the amenities, including head-up display, wireless smartphone integration, 10-speaker Bose stereo, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, heated seats (both front and back), a full slate of the latest safety gear and much more. Another plus: the 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. All in all, it’s nice to see Mitsubishi start to regain its footing—with the Outlander center stage.

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Real Estate

Is cash always king?

How to stay competitive in the face of all-cash offers

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With more all-cash offers these days, there are still ways to stay competitive if you need a mortgage.

One of the frequently asked questions I get as a real estate agent serving the DC Metro area and Delaware beaches is: How can I be competitive in a market that is seeing an increase in all-cash offers? 

I get it, the real estate market is super competitive, but it’s not just because of the low inventory, it’s also because of the cash offers sellers are seeing.

Money is money right? Why would a seller be inclined to take a lower all-cash offer versus a higher offer with a mortgage. Let’s break it down a bit. 

An all-cash offer usually comes with very limited contingencies in addition to the more important piece, which is the timing. A cash sale can close in less than a week whereas a sale with a conventional mortgage can usually only be expedited to a 21-day close. Don’t lose hope! There are still a few ways you can have a competitive edge over cash offers with a few steps your agent can advise you through:

OFFER CASH – THEN ACQUIRE FINANCING: If the stars align and you are purchasing a home that the sellers currently reside in, you can expect that they will need some time to gather their items and move — they also have to gather their great great grandmother’s wedding dress and Uncle Fester’s golf clubs that they just HAVE to keep. This will allow you time to go the conventional mortgage route. Please note that this is a very detailed alteration and it is recommended fully that you speak with your real estate agent prior to doing this to ensure that you are fully educated with the pros and cons of this method and what is at risk. The biggest item to highlight is that a mortgage comes with the infamous appraisal. The appeal of an all-cash offer is that there is no appraisal. With a mortgage an appraisal is required. If the appraisal comes in low, you will need to be ready to come to the table with the difference in appraised value – in cash. For example: Appraised value is $100,000 and you are under contract for $200,000 – that is a delta of $100,000, which you will need to come up with in cash in order to continue with the transaction, separate from any other monies you have already placed down.

OFFER $$$ OVER LOW APPRAISAL: Following up on the appraisal aspect here – you can write a contract with financing in place from the onset and provide an addendum that you will pay the difference in low appraisal (referencing the example above) or you can offer an alternative that would be to pay up to XX over a low appraisal. In this example of paying a dollar amount over a low appraisal, you write into the contract that you are going to offer $50,000 over the appraisal if it is a low appraisal. So if the contract price is $150,000 and you offer to pay $25,000 over a low appraisal value and the property is valued with appraisal at $125k then you would have to pay a total of $150k for the home and that $25k difference would, again, need to be in cash. This allows a bit of leverage with lower cash amounts on hand – but again similar to the example of acquiring financing above, the sellers must allow for the timing of a mortgage application process to occur.

GIFTS FROM FAMILY: What is family for if it isn’t for providing you large sums of cash!? In all seriousness – this is a fully accepted method of cash funds. You will want to speak to a financial planner/tax individual to fully understand tax implications for both parties (giftor and giftee) to fully understand what this means, but there is always the ability to be gifted funds from parents, aunts, uncles etc., to ensure that you are liquid and can purchase the property of your dreams.

OFFER “RENT BACK” TO SELLERS: Following the guise that the sellers must find a property to purchase or perhaps they are moving across the country and need a month or two in order to get their affairs in order. This allows you to provide a “rent back” to the sellers and basically become their landlord. In this scenario you would typically charge them rent, which would be equal to your carrying costs for your home expenses. For the purposes of being competitive in this market, you can offer a “rent FREE rent back” where you afford them the ability to sell the home to you and they still reside in the home for an established time post closing at no cost to them. This sounds silly — why would you let someone stay in your new home rent free for two months when that means that you are paying for your mortgage and other expenses in addition to rent for an apartment or maybe shacking up with mom and dad again? 

It’s important to remember that in order to get a property in this market there is the need to think creatively if you don’t have all the cash in the world — you can still be VERY competitive.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

Leather and lace in your home decor

From couches to countertops, add some flair

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Leather isn’t just for couches anymore; you can find it in countertops and a wide range of décor.

When I was very young, I would visit my maternal grandmother and marvel at the hand-tatted and crocheted doilies that adorned the arms and backs of her sofa and chairs. They were also found on her dressers and side tables, and on the dining table as coasters and placemats, to prevent scratches on the furniture. Like snowflakes, the designs of the doilies were both intricate and individual.

I’m convinced that people had better posture in the early 20th century, because I never saw the remnants of men’s hair tonic, Macassar oil, or pomade on Nana’s doilies, even though they were there to keep the furniture from absorbing those hair products. Certainly, people weren’t the couch potatoes lounging on sofas then that we are today. Being able to Netflix and chill was a long way off.

I was impressed with the amount of work that had gone into such a little piece of fabric, so I later tried to learn to crochet. Sadly, all I was able to accomplish was string after string, never having been taught how to join those strings together to resemble a doily. At least with knitting, I was able to form squares large enough to be blankets for my Barbie.

In my mid-century childhood, doilies were put away and saved for grandchildren who, years later, would neither want them nor appreciate their historical value. The ‘50s saw polyvinyl chloride (PVC) go from a commercial substance used frequently in post-WWII construction to a residential fabric that we now refer to fondly as “pleather.” I can still remember the sound of my thighs peeling off the vinyl banquette at the diner when I would get up to leave a booth.

To be without a leather couch in the ‘60s was déclassé and, although styles have changed, such a couch remains a timeless piece. These days, if you are looking for a little more leather in your life and in your home, you can look beyond that couch and chair, where options range from the subdued to the highly decorative.

While vinyl is still the least expensive leather-look fabric, we now have “bonded” leather, made with scraps that are bonded together using polyurethane or latex. As you can tell from the prices of such furniture, the actual leather used in the process can vary from 10-90 percent.

Of course, top grain leather is the most expensive, and we have suede, die cut, embossed, patent, and a variety of other techniques used to change the look of a hide. In addition, there is now vegan leather.

For something unique for your kitchen or bar, check out the tooled leather countertop from Kosel Saddlery (koselsaddles.wixsite.com/marty) in Montana. They also make saddles and chaps.

Instead of the shiny granite counters that we all know, MSI Surfaces (msisurfaces.com) makes honed and leathered granite finishes for a more subtle appearance and has dealers throughout the DMV. 

For a do-it-yourself application, Amazon sells the Aspect brand eight-pack of leather glass, peel and stick subway tiles for backsplashes in five neutral colors for less than $20 each.

EcoDomo (ecodomo.com) in Gaithersburg offers a variety of custom leather treatments, including countertops, door and cabinet panels, floor planks and tiles, and wall systems. Your color choices aren’t limited to black or brown either. They can manufacture pieces in blue, red, green, and even in custom colors to match other items in your décor.

Many online stores such as Wayfair and Overstock carry real and faux leather headboards, footstools, poufs and benches at affordable prices. 

There’s always something in leather at Pottery Barn, even for the conservative budget: pieced leather pillows, tufted stools, basket collections, and even a leather-bound coffee table book for cigar aficionados. 

If you’re looking for small accent pieces, try a leather coaster, placemat, napkin ring, or my personal favorite, a cutlery pouch for your tableware collection from Lucrin Geneva (lucrin.com). They also offer office accessories such as crocodile desk sets, wastebaskets and storage boxes.

And for the connoisseur of leather, vinyl, rubber, or even neoprene items of a more personal nature, head to the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency this Friday through Sunday for Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend. With plenty of specialty items, high-impact fashion, toys and games for all ages and yes, even custom-made furniture among the vendor exhibitions, you’re sure to find something that will tickle your fancy.

Just remember that you (and your puppy) must both be vaccinated and masked to attend. We take COVID (and rabies) very seriously here in D.C.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate.  Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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