Reconciling Congregation 5th Anniversary Testimonials

Doug ColeTrish Peterek (and Blythe Muraki)Barry White (and Simon Vu)Otto DeLeon (and Rex Bennett)Beth Treat (and Sarah Kelly)Steven C. Edwards-Perez and David A. Edwards-Perez

Doug Cole

My thoughts on what St. Mark’s means to me:

In a word Everything.

I was raised in a faith community and my experience when coming out was “You need to change. You are not worthy as you are and cannot be in the fellowship of God as you are.”

After a long time of feeling like there was no church or faith community who would accept me “just as I am” and just as God made me, I found St. Mark’s.

Being part of St. Mark’s has made a wonderful and positive impact on my life. This faith community is like no other I’ve experienced. They truly welcome everyone and celebrate the amazing, diverse and beautiful world God created.

I found a home here in every sense of the word… “home.”

Trish Peterek (and Blythe Muraki)

I grew up Catholic, went to 14 years of Catholic school and church on Sundays. My parents were very involved and wonderful examples of what it means to be a Christian. Sitting in the pew next to them (and my sister) gave me comfort. Coming to terms with the fact that one day I wouldn’t be “fully included” was difficult. I knew that my kind of love was unacceptable. Hurt, angry and discouraged, I stopped going to church for a long time.

When my partner, Blythe (her children) and I got together, it was very important for us to make Christ and church the central part of our lives. I knew I wouldn’t be content just “showing up” to church. I needed to be involved (just like my parents were) and to be my true self.

I am so grateful and blessed to have found that in St. Mark’s. Being able to sit with my partner and family, knowing that I am loved and accepted for who I am, is something I will never take for granted.

Thank you St. Mark’s for providing a place for us to get closer to God, instead of turning us away!

Barry White (and Simon Vu)

Prior to finding St. Mark’s, I attended many worship services attempting to find a church that not only met my spiritual needs, but also was accepting of my lifestyle. My first visit was warm and accepting. Soon after that initial visit, the music, ministry, and friendliness of the church leaders and members made me feel at home. Within a few short weeks, I had met other members of the GLBTI community and knew that this was, in fact, my “spiritual home.” My partner, Simon, and I now attend regularly, are an integral part of the Church, and are accepted as a Gay couple for who we are….. just people desiring to worship God, just like everyone else.

So many churches and church denominations have alienated the GLBTI community, and I firmly believe that Jesus life on earth demonstrated that God loves all people and accepts everyone regardless of race, color, or sexual orientation. St. Mark’s core values are to follow Christ’s teaching that all are welcome and accepted… EVERYONE, no exceptions!

I am so thankful to be apart of this reconciling congregation and am grateful for the past and current members to have the foresight to allow all of Christ’s followers to feel comfortable to attend.
How wonderful it is to be welcomed, loved and accepted at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church!!

Otto DeLeon (and Rex Bennett)

What it means to me to be a part of St. Mark’s as a member of the GLBTI community….

I AM CONSTANTLY CHANGING as a result of joining the St. Mark’s family without me having to conform to a specific mold.

I’VE GROWN SPIRITUALLY through the challenges that come from the pulpit, Bible study, fellowship and through the nudging of the Holy Spirit.

I AM LOVED by a diverse community that encourages me to stretch my wings.

I FEEL SAFE to open my heart to receive and give love at St Mark’s.

I SENSE GOD in the life and ministry of our church.

I LOOK FORWARD TO WORSHIP on Sundays as a means to recharge my spiritual battery.

I SEEK WAYS TO GET INVOLVED to more deeply connect with God and the St Mark’s family.

I AM GRATEFUL for the courage and vision of our church in being a formal reconciling congregation.

Beth Treat (and Sarah Kelly)

Sarah Kelly and I (Beth Treat), would love to share the story of how St. Mark’s has made a difference in our lives, and why we are so grateful to have found an inclusive church to call home.

When Sarah and I came out as a lesbian couple our worlds were, as most others were, rocked. To fall in love with someone of the same gender was the last thing we expected. We spent hours, days, weeks, months, in prayer about our relationship, questioning our love and seeking God on what we should do.

At the time, we attended a church that did not accept, in fact condemned, the LGBTI community. When we came out, we were asked to step down as leaders for the college small group, suggested counseling, and no longer allowed to do anything but sit in the back row. We began to search for a church shortly after, and many Sunday mornings were filled with hope and followed by an evening of tears and prayer as time and time again the Scarlet “L” was slapped in our face. Not only had we lost our church community, but many of our friends turned their backs on us. My family also, informed me I was no longer welcome in their home, at family events, or to have contact with my younger siblings. We felt very alone and rejected. The one place we wanted to be was with the people of God, the place of love, the welcoming community for those hurting, but instead even those supposed to be like Jesus turned us away. It was devastating to say the least.

The first Sunday at St. Mark’s we walked into a church that for the first time welcomed and showered us in love. The loving congregation of St. Mark’s overwhelmed us with acceptance and encouragement. I cried on the drive home overcome with joy and hope. After a year and a half of being without a community of believers, we had found our home. St. Mark’s has brought renewed strength and passion to our lives. It has given us a place to fellowship, grow, and pursue God with a family of believers who love us for who we are instead of judged us for who we are with.

Thank you, St. Mark’s, for being an accepting and inclusive church.

Steven C. Edwards-Perez

What Does St. Mark’s Means to me?

I feel that being a part of the St. Mark’s congregation gives me a very welcoming spiritual place to call home, with a great group of people that I consider extended family. I have been to many different types of churches in my childhood, but none of them allowed me to entirely be myself. St. Mark’s has such a diverse group of members, and although everyone is different, no one is judgmental of anyone, due to race or sexual orientation. We love and welcome all at St. Mark’s.

David A. Edwards-Perez

A spiritual void has been filled. I was lost for so long. I have finally found acceptance; a family that shows me that God does love me and that I am one of His children,not doomed or condemned for how I was born. Since my first day here, I have felt welcomed. I have finally found my spiritual home. Thank you, St. Mark’s. Thank you, family members, and thanks be to God!

Lenore Thomas

Being a member of St. Mark’s and a part of the GLBTI Community means a lot. For me, it shows that God’s love always leaves a window open, even when it seems that all the doors are shut. It means that God loves me for who I am, and that He wants me to celebrate and come to worship with others who love me for who I am as well, and that He wants me to worship with others instead of by myself. For me, being part of St. Mark’s, means that I don’t have to be alone in my faith anymore, or pretend to be someone I’m not just to be a part of my church. At St. Mark’s, I can be all of who I am, not just part of it, and for this I am truly grateful.

Throughout my life, I’ve gone to a few very different churches that always told me that “God was love,” but always made sure to tell us that homosexuality was a sin. I never thought much of it until middle school, after having my first girlfriend and having my closest friend from church tell me I was going to hell. I left that church and that part of the state soon after and began living here in Sacramento.

For a little over two years I clung to atheism, believing that God didn’t love me anymore or He wouldn’t have moved me so far away from everyone I loved. All the while I knew something felt wrong.

One night, and I forget why we did it, Will (Jones) and I started looking up GLBTI friendly churches on the internet, and after a couple hours of searching through websites, and looking at sermons, we came upon St. Mark’s. At first I didn’t want to come, I had no idea what Methodist church was like and I didn’t dare try something to new, but there we were next Sunday, in the back of the church, watching this awesome slide show of the Sierra Service Project. I remember it was either that Sunday or the one after that I talked to Faith for the first time at the doors. Never have I felt so welcome at a church. I guess, to wrap it all up, the reason I’m thankful to be part of a reconciling/inclusive/accepting congregation is because I’ve been to congregations that weren’t, I’ve felt the sting of the people who are supposed to love you turning their backs because you’re GLBTI, and because of that I count my blessings everyday to have a place like St. Mark’s. I’m thankful for the shut doors and the last open window.


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