The historic St. John’s United Church of Christ, which has been in the Houston area since 1860, invited the Cathedral of Hope Houston to unite with its congregation, providing a permanent home for COH Houston and cementing a future for the St. John’s congregation.
by Joyce Gabiola
The Dallas-based Cathedral of Hope (COH), which has just celebrated its 40th anniversary, is thought to be the largest church in the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. “As the church developed, it became a church for all, a church that is inclusive of gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—whoever you are,” says Rev. Gary Bagley. “We want you to come and be with the grace of God in a way that makes you feel good.”
Bagley was recently installed as the first pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, St. John’s Parish in Houston, a new church borne of the union of St. John’s United Church of Christ and COH Houston, whose 70 members previously met at Grace Lutheran Church on Waugh. Bagley, who is now an out gay man, was once married to a woman with whom he had two children. He gradually came out of the gay clergyman’s closet, simply confirming his sexuality when someone would make an inquiry. “I was struggling with an integrity issue. I was in the pulpit preaching about truth,” Bagley says.
Bagley grew up in the United Methodist Church and had been a minister in that denomination for 31 years when his church defrocked him. That same day, Dr. Jo Hudson, senior pastor of COH Dallas (unaware of what had occurred earlier in the day) contacted Bagley to offer him the post that he now holds at COH Houston.
When he heard about his father’s dismissal, Bagley’s son, who is a United Methodist minister, told his father, “After everything you’ve done, all they’re going to remember is that you’re gay.”
“The realization is that people come [to us after feeling] the rejection of other churches, or rejection of the church of their childhood. They are not the only ones,” Bagley assures. “Most everyone that gathers in the Cathedral of Hope can share similar stories, even the clergy. So we understand the hurt, we understand the pain because we lived it, and we know it’s not always easy to overcome.”
The new church meets at 4606 Mangum, where St. John’s Church was rebuilt in the ’80s after having caught fire when lightning hit the bell tower. The stained-glass windows were unharmed. The historic St. John’s Church that was built in 1891 was given to the Heritage Society and is currently located in Downtown Houston’s Sam Houston Park in the company of other historic buildings. Its beauty lies in its lack of ornamentation. Its octagonal steeple and the peaks of its Gothic windows reach for the heavens. Although the structure is well-preserved, it is missing one of its original features. Visit the Cathedral of Hope, St. John’s Parish sanctuary, and find out exactly what that is. In doing so, you will also find what brings light to the new congregation.
“gay”ther Gospel Music Homecoming in Dallas
Cathedral of Hope Dallas hosts its First Annual National Gospel Music Celebration, “Gay”ther Homecoming, on September 18 at 8 pm. The Cathedral of Hope and Art for Peace & Justice are gathering together LGBT musicians for an evening of entertainment. The event is modeled after the Gaither Homecoming events made popular by Christian music songwriter Bill Gaither.
More than 40 singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists from across the nation perform as soloists or in groups. Expect sing-alongs with full audience participation. The LGBT gospel groups Out 4 Joy and Voices of Hope are in attendance, as are Marsha Stevens, Susie Brenner, Rob Parker, and Rev. Ken Martin. Dallas musical artists are also expected to join in the celebration.
“We will include as many musicians as the stage will hold!” promises Dr. Timothy Seelig, the director for the evening. “Most of these talented folks have experienced a huge amount of hurt at the hands of the religions of their youth. This is our opportunity to stand proudly and sing the songs we thought were lost.”