We were thrilled when the Session of Member Church Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church in North Plainfield, NJ and their pastor Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, began conversations with us about hosting a film screening. Sunday, October 14, after weeks of outreach, WAPC opened it's doors to the community and invited people to come see the powerful Love Free or Die, a documentary film about Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. This Sundance Award-winning film was directed by Macky Alston, a friend and passionate advocate for the celebration of LGBTQ people in the church. That is why he is one of this year's Faithful Servants! You can read about him and reserve your place at our November 12 Faithful Servant Awards. Not only will you be supporting our ministries, but you will get the chance to meet Macky and Bishop Robinson, who will be joining us for the evening to present Macky's award.
WAPC clearly has the Christian practice of hospitality down. They welcomed in friends, neighbors, and strangers to a smorgasbord of hors d'oeuvres and great conversation before the film began. After watching the story of Bishop Robinson's journey from being consecrated as bishop, being ostracized by his own Anglican Communion, and working for marriage equality in the church, we were treated to a panel discussion.
Rev. Vance-Ocampo moderated a conversation between Rev. Mieke Vandersall, our Minister Director; John Sullivan, a newly ordained ruling elder at WAPC; and Rev. Kellie Anderson-Picallo, Director of Media and Education at Auburn Media. They each spoke passionately about the struggle for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from national and personal perspectives and joined in dialogue with the wonderful people from many different traditions that came to see the film.
The evening was a rich time of conversation and fruitful dialogue about what the next steps are for local faith communities that seek to exhibit the love and welcome of God we know in Jesus the Christ. We look forward to organizing more events like this with WAPC and our other member churches.