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Grassroots LGBTQ+ group coming to Farmington Hills church

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published February 26, 2020

 Farmington Hills resident and South Oakland Pride Board President Gianna Lampertius has organized a group that will meet at Nardin Park United Methodist Church.

Farmington Hills resident and South Oakland Pride Board President Gianna Lampertius has organized a group that will meet at Nardin Park United Methodist Church.

Photo provided by Gianna Lampertius

 The electronic sign at Nardin Park United Methodist Church spreads the message in August that LGBTQ community members are welcome at the church.

The electronic sign at Nardin Park United Methodist Church spreads the message in August that LGBTQ community members are welcome at the church.

Photo provided by Gianna Lampertius

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FARMINGTON HILLS — A new community-oriented LGBTQ+ group, South Oakland Pride, is coming to town.

The group, created by Farmington Hills resident and board President Gianna Lampertius, will host its first open meeting 2-5 p.m. March 15 at Nardin Park United Methodist Church, 29887 W. 11 Mile Road.

Lampertius said the goal is to meet on the third Sunday of each month. While the first meeting will be held at Nardin Park, two other churches — Nativity Episcopal Church and Royal Oak First United Methodist Church — are also involved. The group will rotate between the three spaces.

The idea began after several conversations — stemming back to last fall — with Royal Oak First United Methodist Pastor Jeff Nelson and Nardin Park United Methodist Rev. Melanie Carey about the need to create a safe, supportive space for Lampertius’ fellow LGBTQ+ community members to gather. The “+” represents other identities, which may include pansexual, asexual and omnisexual.

After Lampertius attended the first meeting for another new LGBTQ+ group in Novi, Pride and Joy, on Feb. 5, which more than 25 people attended, she said the need for more support groups was reaffirmed.

She said South Oakland Pride intends to work closely with Pride and Joy.

South Oakland Pride will be open to all members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies, advocates, families and friends.

“Most anyone knows someone from the LGBTQ+ community or is at least aware of someone from the community. They may have a co-worker, family members, friend or neighbor down the street,” she said. “It’s heartwarming when most people recognize that and also recognize there’s a safe space for people to get support when they need it.”

Open meetings will begin with light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres, as well as introductions from board members and the audience if they wish, before breaking out into subgroups geared toward the different letters of the LGBTQ+ community. Lampertius said subgroups for non-LGBTQ+ members will also be an option if there are enough such participants.

“A lot of times, they need as much support as their LGBTQ+ family members. They need a channel to be able to express themselves, ask questions and get support,” she said.

The group also plans to include a keynote speaker, though not at the introductory meeting.

Each subgroup will have a moderator tasked with keeping the conversations open, welcoming and non-judgemental. While Lampertius would rather shy away from discussion of religion or politics, calling them a “double-edged sword” for some, if those topics are brought up, “they can’t be offensive,” she said.

Carey agreed that religion can become a touchy subject when brought up among LGBTQ+ members, given the bleak history of support shown by churches and religious organizations toward the group. While Carey sits on the group’s board, she said it’s not her intention to bring religious influences into the group. She merely wants to provide a safe place for ministry and support.

“We’re excited to support this new effort. … We really want the people that the group is for to be the leaders of it. I think it needs to be led by the people that it’s intended for,” she said. “Ministry is about doing ministry with people, not for people.

“When members of our church feel really passionate about something, we sit down and talk about it and talk about ways we can help facilitate that particular ministry,” she added.

Carey said opening the church’s doors to Lampertius’ group is wrapped up in a broader initiative Nardin Park recently went through to establish a new welcoming statement that truly welcomes all people. The welcoming statement was approved Jan. 29, with 88% of the church’s administrative team voting in favor. She admits the transition has led a few people to leave the congregation, but overall, she believes it’s been a step in the right direction.

“In terms of helping others in our community, we were able to do this, and the church walls didn’t fall down.”

After experiencing firsthand what it felt like to be excluded from her lifelong church and religion as a Catholic for identifying as an LGBTQ+ member, Lampertius said “it’s refreshing to know there’s a church so close to my home that’s open and welcoming.”

With Sound Oakland Pride in its initial stage, Lampertius said she’s always open to new, interested board members or religious congregations — of any faith or denomination — who may want to get involved.

For more information, visit facebook.com/SouthOaklandPRIDE or call Gianna Lampertius at (248) 506-7922.

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