What an awesome night the panel of Committed to Home contributors and I had at the monthly meeting of Openings last night at the Jubilee! Circle Center. Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, who is the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, welcomed us warmly and shared part of her journey from journalist to minister after 9-11 in 2001. She and Rev. Tom Summers are both graduates of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
(l. to r.) Dick Hubbard, Michael Haigler,
Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, Rev. Tom Summers
the panel did well in spite of their moderator (me)
Openings, a group co-founded by one of the contributors to Committed to Home, Michael Haigler (who remains the President of the group), is an effort to build a closer relationship between L GBTQ people and the established faith community in Columbia. Michael has spent a lifetime of service to others beginning with three years in the Peace Corps in Africa after graduating from Clemson with a degree in architecture. His journey home to South Carolina involved several intriguing detours taken at University of California – Berkeley and San Francisco.
The Openings group of about 40 people listened intently to the compelling personal stories shared by the panel.
Rev. Tom Summers has been an ally of the LGBTQ community for many years, marched in every Pride March carrying the banner of Clergy for LGBTQ Rights, written op-ed pieces on behalf of our community and testified before the state legislature whenever bills relating to marginalizing the queer community are introduced in the state legislature.
Dick Hubbard is a realtor who has been active in the gay rights movement in Columbia since the days before the 1993 March on Washington which, he says, empowered him to true activism when he came home to South Carolina. In the early 1980s he and his partner Freddie Mullis focused on bridging the gap inside the gay community between what he called the “bar scene” and the “dinner party” culture and had a measurable level of success. He was a reluctant contributor to Committed to Home and only agreed to the interview because he thought the book wouldn’t be published. Oh my, good surprise..
Michael wrote today, Hanging out after the meeting, I heard nothing but rave reviews about the program and all the really interesting stories. It ties so well into our ongoing theme of “Sharing Our Stories” through our programs. Thanks to all of you for contributing so much!
My personal thanks to Openings for this opportunity to share the homecoming stories of five of the twenty-one contributors to the anthology.
Next week a panel discussing Committed to Home will participate in Gay Pride week at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina on Wednesday night from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. Harriet Hancock, Pat Patterson, Pretty and I are looking forward to helping the students and faculty celebrate.
Photos today courtesy of Pretty