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Auckland Community Church

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:04] St. Matthews in the city and Oakland Community Church have been together in the same building for the last probably 30 odd years. And we, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, largest Community Church here in New Zealand is usually about 40 or 50 people that come to our evening to services, which is great. And we're just a very open and accepting community. And we have straight people that come along, and people of different faiths even [00:00:37] when you say you kind of Belize being transgender, bisexual church, what does that mean? [00:00:43] What does that mean? It means that when Christ died on the cross, He died on the cross with his arms wide open. And he didn't exclude anyone. And for a very, very long time in gays and lesbians, bisexual, transgender people have felt as much group excluded from faith in in church services and really been denied the spirituality. So we're turning that on its head. We're a new unique church, which sort of evangelizers the say, you know, God loves everyone, and God loves gays and lesbians just as much as the stripe brothers and sisters. [00:01:22] What does that mean, in practical terms in terms of what the church does or doesn't do? [00:01:28] What the church does and doesn't do what I guess [00:01:32] when the Anglican [00:01:36] weird nondenominational church. So that's sort of quite important to make a sort of statement about that. Firstly, we are as some of us in the city is an Anglican Church at Oakland Community Church is nondenominational. But it's interesting, because we're still, you know, there are people that come to our services from all different walks of life, some of them a pen, some of them are Catholics, some of them are missing. And, you know, when there is an occasion when the looking at Anglican ministers and whether they're going to be ordained, gay and lesbian ministers, were there at the forefront, we've been asked about these issues and saying, putting a unique voice across that, you know, it's okay for our ministers to be gay and lesbian. And actually, we need gay lesbian ministers to support our community. We're crying out for it. You know, Jesus went out, and he went out to he talks about leaving 99 to go and get that one lamb. And my point of view, and my spirit where its head is that the game has been community is that that 1% and those people that come from conservative Christian backgrounds that are denying that 1% and throwing Jesus's work, [00:02:52] how did the Oakland Community Church start? [00:02:56] Oakland Community Church started way back even before the legislative changes started with the six reform bill, way back when and St. Matthews realized that there was a need, some Matthews had always had a bit of a history with helping the impoverished around the community, helping set up the open City Mission. But they also realized that there was a need, with a small group of gay and lesbian people wanting to, to have a face to this wasn't an integrated service with your own. But they ended up giving some spice aside so that we could start our own little church, and it just grew and grew from there. [00:03:43] How is the church? Or is the church aligned with other churches, either nationally or internationally? [00:03:49] Right. We're kind of at the forefront with people know about Oakland Community Church, maybe through some methods in the city, because there's some Matthews sort of widely knowing billboards and controversy and stuff like that. We're also aligned in a sort of funny sort of way with the Metropolitan Community Church, and there is a Metropolitan Community Church here in Auckland. We would like to combine both churches that sort of something in the pipeline that I'd like to see happen. But there's obviously some history that goes along with that, which has prevented it thus far. And, yeah, Metropolitan Community churches, if you look online, you'll see them throughout the world. It's a huge movement, especially through parts of America, and very supportive network of gay friendly churches, not not just for gays and lesbians, but definitely, you know, for the straight community as well. But it's definitely a different philosophy and really welcoming everybody, the whole rainbow community, not just the black and white. [00:05:00] You mentioned that St. Matthew has things like billboards, and that are kind of really pushing the boundaries, pushing the boundaries in terms of messages and things like the the Jesus should come out billboard for Christmas and marriage equality. Just Oakland Community Church have any say in terms of what kind of billboards going outside so many? [00:05:26] No, not really. Some methods have its own people that organized the billboards, and I I know Klay quite well, he's going to be the minister at my civil union come March. So I mean, I love clutter, but I'm sure has controversy and some of the publicity that's come out of the book was has been really positive for some methods, but also very negative, like, I'm sure, I hope he doesn't mind me sharing this, but he's received it for it and awful things because people can't, can't just take the debate and just sort of see this as a point of, you know, creating a dialogue. And, and I think, I think the billboards have a place in society. As a person of Oakland Community Church on, I'm very proud to say, you know, we support some issues with the work that they do. But at the same time, the members of our parish one is liberal, with the philosophies with it, Christian philosophies, and probably find it quite difficult to sort of come to terms with with how liberal some of these billboards, I can be offended by them. Which is interesting, because I always thought gays and lesbians would be the most liberal of Christians out there. But you know, not everyone's the same. So. [00:06:48] So what are some of the responses mean? [00:06:51] Well, [00:06:54] I think the the one that really got everyone's attention was probably Mary, and the milk, this is God's a harlot to fall follow. And I thought that was humorous. And I could have a good laugh about that. But I know, there are some members of our parish that found that, you know, quite offensive, and, and I can see that I can. It's, it's sort of a personal thing. And with art, and sometimes with politics, or, you know, whatever the agenda is, it can run people up the wrong way. And I'm sure, probably some members of some atheist parish also found it difficult to, to like that particular Billboard. But on the whole, I think that pretty positive, probably just backtracking a little bit, I wanted to say, because St. Matthews is the Anglican Church, and we're a non denominational church, our ties with the rest of the community are quite broad, which makes us a very strong Christian community. Because as our L, homeless, or prisoners that come to the church, from the Methodist from the Anglican, the Catholic, we have Baptist ministers, we you can name it, if there's a Christian person with faith in the heart, who's done some sort of similar seminary training that here, you know, once every couple of months, doing a little bit to support our community, our unit community? [00:08:26] How did you come to the church? [00:08:28] Oh, when I was 19, I came up to Auckland as a young, not out, man used to sit in the back of the church. And at the end of the church service a step one way before someone spoke to me, wasn't quite ready to come out. But you know, it was just a bit of a learning curve for me to sort of meeting other people who came from faith backgrounds, and we're already happy with the sexuality I, having come from very conservative background, I wasn't quite ready to embrace that aspect of myself. And, yeah, I think it's all about finding that balance, and open Community Church definitely help me find that balance. And that's probably where my heart is. And that's why I've written the books, Memoirs of undercover Angel, trilogy, body, mind and soul. Because at the end of the day, all about finding that balance in life. [00:09:28] What do you get out of spirituality or religion? [00:09:34] I think having a belief system that there is something more than just yourself out there. And, and just a knowledge that at the end of the day, when things seem so crazy, and you know, you just don't know where life is hitting somehow or the but you don't need to make sense of it, they're all going to come together and things are going to be right, I think, one of the big messages over in America and stuff, when they're talking to young teenagers who are struggling with sexual identity issues, and, and also self esteem issues, you know, and as a young teenager, I struggled with those issues and thought about suicide and got pretty black and the dark places that you know, tomorrow is going to get better. Tomorrow is always better. And those are really powerful things to hold on to. And with the faith, you know, you can really hold on to the light, you know, it may seem like a dark tunnel, but at the end of that tunnel, as a beautiful white light. And the closer you get to it, the brighter it gets. And the happier you feel, the more love you have in your heart. And it does make a difference in your life. [00:10:46] Do you still find that there are people that come and sit in the back of the church? And then scurry away out? [00:10:52] Yeah, there are people like that. And it's so funny, because like, that was me 10 years ago, maybe a little bit longer ago now. [00:11:04] Yeah, quite often, those people that to come in what they want is just to connect, because they were feeling like I did, you know, I'm 19 years ago, sending in the back feeling so lonely and misunderstood. And as if no one had a clue what was going on inside of them. And I remember this elderly gentleman coming in one time, because it's not always the young people that are struggling with his sexuality issues. And he was sitting behind me. And I just realized at one point that this was kind of a big thing for him coming to some Matthews in the city coming to open Community Church. And I just reached out, and I put my hand on his back. And I said, it's okay. God loves you. That's okay. And he said, but how can God love me? Is it because it does. God's love is unconditional. I'd like to think that that was a bit of a turning point in his life. Because it you know, he was almost sobbing there as just when you're struggling with your sexuality of Susan, whether you have a faith background or not, but mostly people that do come from a faith background. At some point, they have to unlearn everything. And you're probably a person if you continue with your faith carrying a huge amount of baggage around with you, which can lead to internalized homophobia. And it's a huge, huge issue. And it's not until you throw it off and say, well, to hell with what everyone else thinks. I know what my relationship with God is like, and I know that it's real and strong, and that he does love me. And you stop listening to everyone else who might be preaching a different talk. And if you go to a conservative Christian church, you will know that there will be the pastors out there that are preaching hate, that are preaching. Lies, you know, not necessarily what Jesus was preaching. And that's when you got to say, Well, where is God in there? And I've definitely found God here at open community to so. But you can also find him in the quiet places and on top of a mountain and tramping through the woods. And those can be just as magical and special places to [00:13:31] those kind of moments like what that older chap? Do they change your being as well? [00:13:41] Yes, it does. I think [00:13:44] when you are in a [00:13:46] relationship, and you're working hard, and your nine to five job is what it is, and you're just making ends meet, it's so easy to become apathetic in life. And to kind of forget about, you know, how difficult it is for young people, and even the older people that are struggling out there. And you end up not connecting with people. And yet, you know, your story, my story, perhaps can change people's lives and give them hope. And I think when people have hope and the live their lives, they're not going to make bad mistakes, they're going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and they're going to want to follow it. So it does change, you realize that it makes you realize that through all the good and the bad, that, you know, if you can take someone's hand and just bring them up another couple of steps, you know, if we're all on the same journey, and it's all up the mountain, you know, if you can meet them at the lower part of the mountain, what is it base camp? And just take them up another rung another another few steps. And if they're happy there, then that's good, you know, and it doesn't matter who's returning to base camp, you know, sort of all part of the journey. [00:14:58] Has your faith ever been? Question? Have you ever question your own faith? [00:15:04] I'm [00:15:06] probably a good Christian I, [00:15:07] I have a partner who's an atheist. So I haven't been on a committed relationship for the last 14 years. He wasn't always an atheist, but he was from a Catholic background. And I completely understand when people you know, from a gay lesbian background, and f5 background just decide to completely throw off the religious shackles. And you know, I don't want to have anything to do with that. I think it's a very brave decision. And I don't belittle that decision and roll I think, you know, a lot of people can get on with their lives without necessarily faith, but they've got loving their lives. And I think that's the most important thing. To me, Jesus was, was love. And that's the message. So, you know, some people really do need faith in their lives, and they need Jesus in their lives, because they're, they're missing out on life and some people. [00:16:00] So does that make you question your own faith. [00:16:07] I probably Christian, my faith more when I was younger, but I just had so many experiences while growing up that just completely rocked my world and, and took me from, you know, a very shy teenager to, to someone who was old and, and really to embrace the world, and, you know, finally embrace my sexuality as well. So [00:16:32] I'm rather fortunate that I've [00:16:35] always found a very close relationship with God and yeah, happy to see that with people. But no, probably never Christian my faith, [00:16:43] like, like some people, I've definitely had times in my life where I haven't been going to church regularly or, you know, been investing that time and, and my spirituality. And, you know, maybe those have been good times in my life to where I've been getting a balance and been focusing more on my sexuality or my, my mind. And in many ways, yeah. [00:17:10] Just the church have an outreach program. [00:17:12] We do we, [00:17:15] we have an outreach program to one of the prisons, and we can visit them and we run a service. They are, I think, once a fortnight, and there are a few members of our congregation, which are part of circle of friends, which helps support and mates who may have been sexual abusers or something like that come into the community, we're there to basically keep them, keep them on the straight and narrow and hopefully give them a framework and a support network and friendship to sort of be guided. Yeah. an outreach program, we're always interested in connecting with our community, both the gay and lesbian community, but also the community at large. We want to be a presence, especially with the the gay movement bill coming up, to sort of say, not all, to Christian churches are against gay marriage. And we, you know, the board at Oakland Community Church unanimously support gay marriage. So yeah, we're very passionate [00:18:21] about that. I am especially most 24th. I'm getting married. I don't care what they say. [00:18:29] And today, of course, was the Big Gay house and you guys with it? [00:18:32] Yeah. Yeah, it was great. It was fantastic. That was so hot. But um, yeah, we had a great turnout. And lots of Auckland Community Church of baked biscuits. And so we were handing out biscuits, and I'd made chocolate, fruit spice biscuits. I started with a basic recipe, but I decided no, I want everything in the song. And my way they were rainbow biscuits. The organ has just recently been replaced and it was a beautiful instrument. We do the prepares for each open Community Church service, have a different take depending on their their denominational background, sometimes we'll have a very Catholic sounding or Anglican sounding church service. If I'm running the service, maybe you'll get a little bit more happy clappy and we'll get some whole song going and will be the Lord and all of that. And, you know, maybe bringing a younger vibe into the church, which is hopefully refreshing. I hope I don't turn turn some people away. But yeah, we definitely have a variety and I think that's important about open Community Church, you know, it's it's not the same flavor every every week. [00:19:49] Talk to me about the young kind of demographic of the congregation and who comes [00:19:53] who counts. [00:19:56] We have a wide ranging demographic we've caught up got young people that will come in and and just sort of kick out of the church for three or four weeks. And sometimes I think maybe they've been going to church and they've just had a pastor's dinner, anti gay lesbian speech, and they've turned off that and then they turn up at our church feeling sort of beaten up by the whole experience, but they end up going back to their their original churches and it's just nice to for them to be supported by our church just in that interim, and realize that they don't have to take to heart what what the minister might be telling them as the gospel because he's not necessarily preaching God's gospel, which is love. So I'm demographic, yep, we've got some young people we've got some old people and we've got some middle aged people and and the more the merrier we want, we want as wide a range of demographic as we can get.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.