Minister creates traveling GLBT ministry in central Minnesota

Hoping to reach out to rural Minnesota GLBT people who are interested in GLBT-identified worship, a St. Joseph Episcopalian minister is taking her show--and congregation--on the road. Rev. Patricia Gillespie, who lives in St. Joseph, is establishing Living Waters, a GLBT Christian congregation that will travel to various Minnesota towns around Sauk Center, and hold services at different churches in Willmar, Hibbing, St. Cloud, and other central Minnesota cities. As for the support of the hosting churches, Gillespie says the reaction has been fairly positive: "There's clergy support," she says. "We have a Lutheran pastor and a Roman Catholic youth minister involved in this as well."

There also has been some negative reaction from members of several churches, however. "One family left one of the churches because they couldn't reconcile their beliefs with what their church was saying by accepting our congregation," says Gillespie.

Gillespie's goal is to create a safe place for GLBT people to worship and not feel in conflict about their identity and their religion. "Our long-term goal is to do consciousness-raising through the church about the GLBT community, and in the GLBT community about the church," says Gillespie. The fact that she has only a small congregation doesn't faze her: "If I have only three people, that will be great. If I have a hundred people that will be great," says Gillespie.

No matter what the size of the turnout, Gillespie says she has the support of the Episcopalian diocese, which has taken a supportive stance on GLBT people in ministry. "For example," she says, "if a GLBT person is in a committed relationship with a partner, when they're ordained, their partner is allowed to be up there being honored with them as if they were a married heterosexual couple."

"People really rely on their churches," Gillespie adds. "When a church accepts GLBT members, the others are forced to question their own beliefs....People expect men to walk in wearing high heels. When they find out that the man who's been sitting next to them for years in church is gay, they realize he's one of them."

The first service is scheduled to take place July 5 at St. John's Episcopal Church in St. Cloud.

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