This Oak Cliff church is home to three congregations
When Rev. Bob Ellis took over as pastor of Sanctuary of Love Church in February, his congregation was meeting in a garage apartment in Oak Lawn.
“The location was really strange, to try to tell people where to go, because it was in the alleyway,” he says. “It was a bad location. The place itself was fine, but the location was bad.”
A few weeks later, Sanctuary of Love was invited to make its home on the campus of a 1950s Austin-stone church with stained-glass windows on West Colorado at Fullerton.
Since 2004, that building has been home to Promise Metropolitan Community Church, which, like Sanctuary of Love, primarily reaches out to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The building also is home, since 2007, to Living Faith Covenant Church, an African American congregation described as “same-gender loving”.
Now all three congregations worship there, separately, every Sunday.
Their worship styles are different.
Rev. Jon Haack’s Promise Metropolitan Community Church is something like Episcopalian — he wears robes and offers Holy Communion every week.
Sanctuary of Love and Rev. Alex Byrd’s Living Faith have a Pentecostal style.
But they have plenty in common. And they’re not totally separate.
They share social justice outreach. For example, at the beginning of the school year, they raised $600 to provide uniforms for students who could not afford them at Quintanilla Middle School, which is across the street.
On Wednesday nights, the three congregations join for bible study.
“There are some doctrinal differences between our churches,” Byrd says. “It is a wonderful experience to be able to recognize those differences and study them without trying to convince each other we’re right about anything.”
Haack, whose 13-year-old church shared space with two other congregations before finding its permanent home on West Colorado, wants the building to serve as a community center.
“There’s no community center for GLBT south of the Trinity,” he says.
Neighborhood associations meet there regularly. And the congregations are sensitive to the neighborhood around them.
When the Dallas Housing Authority caused a stir in Oak Cliff by opening Cliff Manor to formerly homeless residents, the congregations got involved right away.
Haack serves on the Cliff Manor task force. And Living Faith Covenant sponsored a welcoming lunch for residents in the church’s fellowship hall.
“We have situations that need our attention close at hand,” Haack says.
Haack sees the church as a place for anyone in Oak Cliff to participate in Christian worship, especially if they are GLBT. His congregation is considering whether they should offer services in Spanish or reach out to family members of GLBT because they want to make a place for anyone who wants to come.
When Ellis moved his congregation from Oak Lawn to Oak Cliff earlier this year, it was dwindling. The previous pastor had left, and about 10 members were barely keeping it together every Sunday.
Now they have a renovated space in the building behind the main church. It has a public address system, piano, new chairs and carpet tiles.
They have a stable new home, and they’re growing.
“There’s an underlying desire to have unity with other like-minded churches,” Ellis says. “We have a slightly different worship style, and that’s what we think is the appeal. We find a lot of things in common as well.”