Warm Hearts in a Three-Car Garage on a Cold Winter Day
By Rev. Janet Porcher
The first same-sex marriage I officiated at was in the winter of 1986. I was the pastor/director of the United Methodist Outreach Center in Far Rockaway, Queens. It was a mission that began in 1983.
The mission was a three-car garage with a bathroom, small kitchen, dining room and a separate room 8 x 12 feet. On the second floor were three rooms. It was a place where those in need could come for help. The three-car garage served as a sanctuary for worship, Bible study and fellowship. The other rooms served as places to eat, shower, and receive counseling, food, and clothing. We provided counseling for people with HIV as well as those with substance abuse issues; we also housed AA and NA meetings. The sanctuary in winter was used to shelter the homeless.
In January of 1986 I was approached by two women each in their 40s who had been coming to the mission for several weeks. The two women had been friends for several years. One of them asked me if God forgave everyone and loved everyone. In the conversation that followed they shared with me that they were more than friends, that they loved each other, and asked if I would marry them. Since my understanding of God is of a Creator that loves all that He/She created, I said, “Yes.”
The marriage took place on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1986. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. However the garage, our sanctuary, was warm. It had carpeting and was complete with pews, an altar and pulpit. Some of those who came to the mission brought Valentine’s hearts and adorned the altar and communion rail with them. I had had two counseling sessions with the couple. They had chosen Paul’s I Corinthians chapter 13 as the scripture to be read. The ceremony was well attended, and we had a small reception afterwards with a heart-shaped cake! It may have been winter outside, but it was warm inside for ‘The Son’ was shining!
My personal faith and theology have always been that of a God who emulates our United Methodist mantra “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” Our Creator God is a rainbow God who loves all He/She created, and The Son Jesus is our brother who welcomes ALL to follow Him and sit with Him.
It will be a joyous day when our Book of Discipline moves to reflect this.
Janet Porcher is a retired elder in the New York Annual Conference.
We Did is a project of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) dedicated to making visible our ministries to LGBTQ people and encouraging others in the UMC to transcend the institutional requirement to discriminate and make their ministries visible, too. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across the United Methodist Church. You can read all the We Did stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to We Did.