Interfaith service planned for PRIDE Week

PARKERSBURG – Area church officials will be getting involved with a new event for the area this year, Mid-Ohio Valley PRIDE Week.

The Rev. Janice E. Hill, pastor of First Christian Church, has been working with Mid-Ohio Valley PRIDE president Robert Shinn to create an interfaith service to kick off the week, which is aimed at the inclusion and acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community and the community as a whole.

The service will be from 6:30-7:15 p.m. June 11 at Point Park. Hill will be speaking about inclusion and using the scripture of Peter.

“There’s no reason to exclude anyone, because God doesn’t,” Hill said.

Also speaking will be the Rev. Brent Strum, pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, and Jim Rapp from First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta. There will also be music provided by Katie Rhodes and Steve Peck.

Rapp will be speaking on marriage equality and drawing from experiences of couples he knows and personal experiences.

“Our church is a strong believer in marriage equality,” he said.

Rapp said he hopes to remind residents that it’s about people when it comes to marriage equality. He said he respects everyone and their different religious beliefs, but religion should not be guiding the laws that are made.

“We’re talking about families, human beings; and it gets caught up in politics,” he said.

Hill said she hopes people take away from the event that everyone is included in this community.

“People are beginning to change their prejudices and look at things in a way that, I think, is the way that God wants it to be and that is we are all God’s children,” Hill said. “And so to me, the overriding theme is ‘welcome.'”

Shinn has been working on creating the Mid-Ohio Valley PRIDE organization for around two years.

“One of the things I would like to work on is togetherness. Overall, that’s what I want to try to do,” Shinn said.

He said he hopes people will find a way to set aside their differences and enjoy the service.

“I think this is a benefit not only to the LGBT community but our community in general,” Hill said. “I think when we are an open and accepting community it will help everyone.”

Hill said there is still a long way to go, but she hopes this event will be a step in the right direction to creating an inclusive community.

“People have been so hurt by the religious community and so put off that I want to change that,” Hill said. “That’s not what Jesus came for and I want to present Jesus in a new way.”

The service will be followed by a family-friendly drag show at 7:30 p.m. It will also be at Point Park.

Anyone interested in learning more about Mid-Ohio Valley PRIDE organization can contact Shinn at 304-488-3739.