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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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Real Estate

Renovations in the time of COVID

Clean and de-clutter your home before listing

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cleaning house, gay news, Washington Blade

What do I need to do to make my house pretty and ready to sell in the time of COVID?  Some people are telling me that I don’t have to do anything, that it is a sellers’ market. Well, maybe. Do you know your market? Do you know the idiosyncrasies of your market? In many places, homes are flying off the market “as-is.” But in many places a much more nuanced home is getting the attention.

I am seeing more movement in the single-family home market. So, a seller might get by with doing basic repairs and some sprucing up/de-cluttering to get their house ready for the market. Then again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when in doubt, clean it out. (Paint it out, stage it out, etc.)

If you want to do renovations, you might want to get estimates from multiple sources, and see who gets you the best deal. I am hearing some stories that there is a backlog in the supply chain for hardwood and some other materials. Also, many contractors are booked up right now, or have been scheduled to get work done for months now. If timing is going to be an important part of the puzzle, you might want to double check that the work can get done when you need it to be done, especially if you live in a building where you have to get permission to use elevators, do work between certain hours of the day, etc.

At the very least, find a good house cleaner to get in and do a good job on the type of cleaning that is not done on a normal basis. For many reasons. In the time of a pandemic, cleanliness is almost the number one thing people are looking at. Also, we all know that the carpets get vacuumed, the windows get cleaned, and the shelves get dusted. But what about deep in the corners and under the counters and in the air vents and filters?

That being said, there seems to be a shortage of homes on the market right now for the amount of buyers that are looking. A lucky seller right now might not have to do a total renovation and might want to leave some decisions to the next buyer, but I would still advise that they err on the side of cleaning, de-cluttering, and getting it photo ready to maximize their return on their investment.

 

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Real estate opportunity still knocking

Short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers

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COVID-19 real estate market, gay news, Washington Blade

The last year has been challenging across the board, but one area that has continued to thrive is the real estate market.

Low interest rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted people to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. As of late, the housing market is chock full of opportunities for both sellers and buyers. Regardless of whether one is taking the leap into homeownership for the first time or prepping to downsize for retirement, this is a market anyone and everyone should consider tapping into.

There has never been a better time to sell your home than right now. Thanks largely to low interest rates, buyer demand continues to soar. At the same time, inventory is historically low as many would-be sellers have opted to stay put in the last year. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers after just 20 days on the market. Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. As our world inches closer to normal, more inventory will be hitting the market soon. By listing this spring, you will get your house on the market when conditions are still most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market. Not to mention the opportunity to get by with that older water heater and home systems at large. Many buyers in this area tend to waive contingencies on their offer, clearing the path to a smoother and quicker closing.

While the challenges for buyers are very real, there is one massive factor to keep buyers motivated: interest rates. We’re continuing to see historically low averages in interest rates, and those rates are only projected to tick back upwards in the coming years. Last year saw interest rates come significantly down, and we’re still seeing an average of 3% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Compare that to just three years ago when we were a whole 1.5% higher with averages of 4.5%.

With low interest rates nationally and the D.C. area’s strong home value appreciation rates, the investment of homeownership is a real possibility for more people. Over the span of the next five years, homeowners in the District are presented with a great opportunity to grow their net worth by more than $100,000 based on the current average sales price of $699,732 and projected rates of appreciation over the next five years. These conditions won’t last forever though, so take advantage of the opportunity when you can.

After a year of shifting sands, the housing market has emerged stronger than ever – with some unusual quirks. Opportunity is lending itself to short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers. If your situation allows, this market may provide uniquely profitable opportunities for your real estate transaction. For more information or to talk about buying or selling real estate, give me a call at 571-439-2515.

 

Zach Twigg is a licensed Realtor in D.C. and Virginia with Bediz Group, LLC at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Call or text him at 571-439-2515, email him at [email protected]iz.com, or follow him on Instagram and Facebook

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Real Estate

How and why to build a raised garden bed

Accessibility, ideal soil conditions guarantee success

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Fairly easy to construct and even easier to maintain, raised garden beds are a great way to raise plants and vegetables in the comfort and convenience of your backyard.

In a recent episode of the Exmark Original Series, “Done-in-A-Weekend-Extreme,” landscape designer and show host, Doug Scott, spoke to organic gardener Joe Lamp’l of “Growing a Greener World” about the ins and outs of raised garden beds.

Here are some of the top insights and tips Lamp’l shared.

• Why use raised garden beds? A raised garden bed can help facilitate the ideal growing environment, as most people don’t have that perfect soil naturally in their yard. Their accessibility makes them easier to work in and maintain. Plus, they’re a nice architectural design element in any landscape.

• What’s the ideal size? The main rule of the thumb applies to width. The bed should be no wider than 4 feet, as you never want to compact the soil when working. Length however, is based on personal preference and needs. As far as height is concerned, you want the roots to be able to grow out and down as much as possible — 6-inches at minimum. While 12-inches is common, anything higher is a bonus.

• What materials work best? Treated lumber is the most readily available and economical material and will likely last the longest, however, being an organic gardener Lamp’l prefers untreated hardwood, as it lasts almost as long and doesn’t contain chemicals. Other materials you have around the home and yard, such as rocks, old tubs, etc., can work too.

• Where’s the best location? Build your raised garden bed on level ground, in full sun exposure near a water supply.
DIY Instructions:
To build a 10-foot x 4-foot x 18-inch raised bed, you’ll need:

• Nine 6-inch x 6-inch x 12-foot cedar timbers
• Tape measure, t-square and marking pencil
• A saw and extension cord
• One box of 10-inch heavy-duty exterior wood screws
• Ten 24-inch x 1/2-inch rebar stakes
• Twenty 10-inch galvanized timber spikes
• Sledgehammer
• Impact drill and long drill bit
• Level
• Hammer
• Shovels
• Hardware cloth, wire cutters and fence staples
• Work gloves, safety glasses and ear plugs
• Wheelbarrow (to transport soil)

1. Begin by cutting six, 6 x 6 timbers, each measuring 10-feet 6-inches in length. And six, 6 x 6 timbers, each measuring 4-feet 6-inches in length. Drill rebar holes in each timber.

2. Once the first layer of bed has been placed, leveled and squared in your desired location, fasten the corners using 10-inch wood screws. Secure the entire layer to the ground with 10 pieces of rebar.

3. Place the second layer of timbers, staggering the corners and fastening them with wood screws. Secure this layer to the first with ten 10-inch galvanized spikes.

4. Install galvanized cloth to prevent burrowing pests from eating earthworms and destroying plants.

5. Place the third layer of timbers (following above directions.)

6. Fill with soil and plants.

For more tips and complete build instructions, check out “How to Build Raised Garden Beds” by visiting Exmark.com/backyard. Exmark’s Backyard Life is part of a unique multimedia destination with a focus on helping homeowners make the most of their backyard. There you can also access other series, including “Prime Cuts” and “Dream Yards.”

For an amazing crop this season, take a cue from the professionals and build a raised garden bed for best results.

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