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An Easter Service for LGBTQ Christians in the Social Distancing Era

Kansfield Buford Stets

No need to pack a church -- Believe Out Loud is offering an LGBTQ-centric service to be viewed online.

From left: Ministers participating in the Believe Out Loud Easter service include the Rev. Ann Kansfield, Rev. Ron Buford, and Rev. Malte Stets.

In lieu of filling churches this Easter Sunday, there's a way for LGBTQ Christians to find a welcoming service tailored for them without defying social distancing orders.

Believe Out Loud, a community for LGBTQ people of faith, has organized its first online service for Easter, featuring readings from a diverse group of LGBTQ clergy and a performance by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.

"Easter is all about love and hope," says Anna Dreves, chief ethics officer and justice, advocacy, and civic engagement manager at Intersections International, the nonprofit organization that runs Believe Out Loud. "We wanted something that would translate that message of love and hope to the LGBTQ community."

Given social distancing policies, many churches are holding services online, although some states have exempted religious groups from social distancing orders and some churches are openly flouting them. But Believe Out Loud aims to offer something different from what a single congregation would.

"While there are many beautiful, affirming denominations that provide Easter services, this service really centers LGBTQ people of faith," Dreves says, and that will be reflected in the music, the Scripture readings, and more. "We thought we needed to create something especially for this community and stresses that message of love and hope that we all need at this time," she adds.

The service has been prerecorded as opposed to being livestreamed. This will allow people all over the nation, indeed the world, to view it at their convenience. It will be available beginning Sunday at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Believe Out Loud's website and its social media platforms.

Participating clergy include the Rev. Ann Kansfield of Greenpoint Reformed Church, Greenpoint, N.Y.; Rev. Debra J. Hopkins of Essentials for Life Ministries, Charlotte, N.C.; Rev. Ron Buford of the Congregational Community Church of Sunnyvale, Calif.; Rev. Roland Stringfellow of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit; and Rev. Malte Stets of the Protestant Church of Berlin.

Believe Out Loud offers a variety of resources and events for LGBTQ Christians, Jews, and other people of faith, but this is its first time organizing an entire religious service, Dreves says. It won't, however, be the last.

She looks for future services to take place both online and offline. For instance, the group is thinking of holding pop-up worship services at Pride celebrations in New York City and Puerto Rico this summer, although final plans for those will depend on how the current health situation plays out.

"Our goal is for this to be only the beginning," she says.

GLAAD, Family Equality, and PFLAG are helping to promote the service via social media. Watch video messages from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and Family Equality CEO Stan Sloan below.

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