Galveston: Island Faith

Harbor MCC and its pastor celebrate a milestone anniversary.

Rev. Pat Farnan, pastor of Harbor MCC.

“This is an exciting time for Harbor MCC,” says Rev. Pat Farnan, pastor of the fledgling Galveston church. This month, Harbor celebrates the first anniversary as a fully affiliated congregation of the predominantly GLBT Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches denomination. In July, Harbor also moves its weekly service to Sunday afternoon and continues its education series called Creating a Life That Matters.

This is also a challenging time for Harbor MCC, adds Farnan, who is the congregation’s first minister. Like most small, recently formed churches, Harbor struggles to attract members. Still, Harbor continues to grow as a faith home on the Island for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community while also participating in citywide service projects, including a regular program to feed the homeless in the city. Harbor MCC has also partnered with Jesse Tree, a Galveston social-service agency that works, and the AIDS Coalition of Coastal Texas.

Farnan, a graduate of the Virginia Union University School of Theology, entered the ministry after a career in the military. She served on the staff of New Life MCC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, before accepting the call to Harbor MCC. She lives with her partner, Name Name, in League City. Farnan, who participates in the annual conference of the worldwide MCC churches, answered a few questions as her congregation prepared for its anniversary.

Tim Brookover: What’s new with Harbor MCC in its second official year? Doesn’t the congregation have a big anniversary coming up?

In front of the 39th Street church, Rev. Pat Farnan is flanked by two original members of Harbor MCC, partners Ron Shelby (l) and Matt Mitchell (r).

Rev. Pat Farnan: Harbor is entering its second year as a fully affiliated church in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. We have been at our current location on 39th Street since June 2006. We will celebrate our one-year anniversary on Sunday, July 15, at 5:30 p.m. This will be our first Sunday evening service.  
This next year will be a critical time for Harbor MCC. We are a very small congregation, and it has been a struggle getting the word out to the LGBT community that we are here for the people of Galveston County. Even though we have advertised and participated in many community events, I still meet LGBT people in Galveston that didn’t even know we were here.

Talk a little about Harbor MCC for readers who don’t know you.
We self-identify as a progressive Christian community, one where it is OK to question, to struggle, to wrestle with God, and grow in our spirituality. We welcome and even encourage questioning, searching people. We read the Bible critically, and our Christian education is all about expanding our concepts of God. I believe that Harbor Metropolitan Community Church is providing a worship experience like no other in Galveston County.

What prompted the time change for weekly service to 5:30 on Sunday?
We are changing from a morning service for some complicated reasons. Last year, when we moved into our new home on 39th Street after renting space from the Unitarian Universalist congregation, we changed from an evening service to a morning one because we had gotten feedback from the community at large that folks would prefer a morning service. (If we only worshipped in the morning, they would come!)

There are several members of our core group who are employed by the cruise ship companies in Galveston, and they could not attend Sunday morning worship, because they worked Sundays all day at the terminals. We then added a Wednesday evening service so that they could stay connected. The Sunday morning worship did not grow as we had expected. The reality is that we now have two separate congregations, a Sunday group and a Wednesday group, who truly miss being in community with one another. We have decided to go back to Sunday evening worship so that we could reconnect as a community and focus on who God is calling this congregation to be.

Can you tell me a little about the next sessions in the Creating a Life That Matters series, “Rediscovering Relationship with Myself,” that you start this month?
Our exciting new MCC curriculum, Creating a Life that Matters, or CLM, is an 18-week curriculum consisting of three courses, and it is all about relationships—intentional, authentic relationships—with the sacred, our selves, and our passion. As modern, Western people, we expend time, effort, and money seeking to understand who we are. In “Rediscovering Relationship with My Self,” we explore some of the influences that have shaped us and ways to create a self we will want to live with, others will want to relate to, and God will be able to use in the service of all that is sacred. We begin “Rediscovering Relationship with My Self” on July 18 with the class “Beautiful, Gorgeous, Fabulous.” Sixteen people out of this tiny little congregation are now immersed in CLM.

Has Harbor MCC had publicly adverse responses from any other Galveston churches?
We have had no negative feedback from other churches. We are so small, maybe we’re just not on their radar yet! I have attended the Galveston Ministerial Alliance a couple of times, and, so far, they have been very polite. They will not meet again until September, and I will attend their monthly meetings regularly.

Does Harbor MCC work with any other Galveston congregations on projects or events?
We are not involved with any other congregations, but we are in partnership with St. Vincent’s House, an Episcopal mission in the poorest section of Galveston, through our Snack-Pack program. St. Vincent’s has a food pantry, and they also make up snack packs for the homeless people of Galveston. These are lunch bags with food items that do not need any preparation—Vienna sausages, cheese and peanut-butter crackers, applesauce, fruit juice, etc. We deliver from 25 to 30 snack packs to St. Vincent’s every two weeks, and they distribute them to the homeless.

What are some of the issues that you expect that the MCC general conference will deal with this month? Do you have a particular role in the conference proceedings?
My lay delegate and I will be attending the General Conference of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches July 2–6 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme of the conference is “Building on Hope, Creating Our Future.” The focus of much of this conference will be on global social justice, outreach, and church planting. These conferences are a time of renewal, of focus on where God is leading our denomination. The diversity of the people and the cultures during this conference is incredible! I will be involved in assisting with the daily worship services during the conference.   

More information on Harbor Metropolitan Community Church: www.harbormcc.org.


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