EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 11, 2012

Welcoming everyone

Coalition of Merrimack Valley churches promotes equality, inclusiveness to gays

(Continued)

"It's important for civil rights and it's important for me personally because if it wasn't for same-sex marriage, I won't be married at all," said Hoke.

"It's easy to be cynical about it with politics being what it is, but it's historical. It's a huge step in the right direction," Hoke said.

"My hope is that this is just another step in the arc of the moral universe," she said quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's bound to make anyone who is not in favor make them think about it again," Hoke said.

Communities of Faith was established last spring by the Committee for Open Dialogue of South Church, with Anne Wiehe as the moving force behind it. She sent letters to local congregations inviting them to meet, and went to services to speak with the ministers about the mission.

A native of the Netherlands, she grew up in a parsonage where she said she developed a sense of fairness, justice, harmony and peace.

"It comes naturally to me trying to bring people together. Our work will be ongoing until all find a welcoming sanctuary."

Amy Delaney stopped going to church when she first started questioning her sexuality and five years before she told anyone she was a lesbian.

"At first I ended my religious connections and I did miss going to church," Delaney said. "It's overwhelming that I'm accepted for who I am and they make me feel that it's okay."

Before settling at Ballard Vale United, Delaney and her wife attended Unitarian and United Church of Christ congregations.

In December, the governing board of Christ Church discussed and voted unanimously on a statement of inclusion, which read in part, "We desire to know ourselves and one another as God knows us, as beloved children of God and to embody Jesus' own example of radical hospitality. As we say in our welcome to Communion, 'This is the Lord's feast, and all are welcomed to the table.'"

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