By Molly Freibott (she, her, ella)
Prism's Faith Bridge Program began in 2017 when we started the 501c3. The mission was to address the very urgent need to provide inclusive and safe faith connections for the LGBTQ+ Community and allies. When my husband and I started taking in LGBTQ+ teens that were abandoned by their families, I was devastated to realize that out of the hundreds of churches in Northern Arizona, there were only a few would welcome our LGBTQ+ family.
Prism's Team, then GYCC, worked to build an Inclusive Faith List that included organizations across the spectrum including Jewish Synagogues, Baha'i Communities and Sufi Circles. The Unitarian Universalist Congregations have also been accepting and welcoming, but finding churches identifying as "Christian" has been difficult. Many of the Churches that we originally had on our inclusive list had to be removed when the political climate began changing in 2017. The effects of the pandemic in 2020 and the political polarization that occurred has resulted in many of our previously "safe" churches having being removed from our list.
It has been my personal experience in working with the Community that those who come out as LGBTQIA+ often are able to survive the loss of family and friends, but rejection from a faith group or a spiritual leader who "represents God" is unfortunately the final straw that often leads to suicidal ideation. Molly Freibott
Imagine my excitement when I heard that not only was Emmanuel Lutheran of Prescott Valley inclusive and welcoming, but they had a whole TEAM dedicated to Inclusivity!
Check out the Emmanuel Lutheran Church's website here: elcpvaz.org
Emmanuel Lutheran Church PV is part of the Lutheran Organization called Reconciling in Christ. Since 1974,Reconciling in Christ has advocated for the full welcome, inclusion and equity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic (LGBQTQIA+) Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church, congregations and community. Learn more about Reconciling in Christ Here
Gene Bruce Fougner (he, him) is the current facilitator of the Inclusivity Team at Emmanuel Lutheran and is responsible for conducting meetings, creating agendas and planning exercises or trainings around the goal of increasing inclusivity of all types.
Gene retired from an 18 year career with Educational Talent Search, a federal grant outreach program housed at Yavapai College. He worked with 700 middle school and high school students who were looking to find careers and colleges, predominantly from low income homes.
Gene says that one of the perks in a mid-sized rural church body is the opportunity to get involved. Gene’s job at Emmanuel Lutheran is to encourage talents to flourish. He directs the bell choir and is involved in instrumental music efforts but leaves plenty of time to grow vegetables, swim and bike with his husband of 40 years, and keep up with their 20-year-old son.
Pastor Trisha Lowe (she, her) and her husband Tim have remodeled an almost 50-year-old log house in Prescott Valley, and live the good life with their basset hound, Max. They have two adult sons, Ben and Andy who they wish would visit more often. I have the pleasure of serving along with Pastor Trisha. She serves on the Quad City Interfaith Council and the PV Interfaith Group. She is a pillar of the community and a loud voice for LGBTQ+ inclusion and support.
The Inclusivity Team's defined goals for "Facilitating Intentional Welcome" are:
1. Be a community beacon for the LGBTQIA+ needs
2. Empower our congregation to facilitate welcome to all including special needs, skin tone, and all human variation
3. Identify and name any limitations, phobias, etc. as they emerge for purpose of healing and care
Their literature states:
"Emmanuel Lutheran Church members want to welcome all people to fellowship, worship, and the life of the church and in so doing will embrace ideas of welcome quite naturally. Therefore, our approach can be gentle, frank, and educational with attainable goals encouraging rich life. The community may also need a more attentive approach of welcome from us in the face of emergency and extreme need."
I was thrilled to be invited to speak with the Inclusivity Team in October 2022 about inclusivity and specifically about the recent verbal attacks on the PV Library regarding their support of the LGBQT+ Community. It was so encouraging to speak to a roomful of individuals who were there with open minds, open hearts and a definite passion for letting everyone know they were welcome and supported at ELCPV.
We discussed how to address difficult conversations with people we don't agree with integrity and grace. This is a group of people willing to come to the table with those they don't agree with and to listen with open minds and a desire to understand. That being said, they were also very ready to stand up and defend the rights of all people to be included and represented in their community.
Your contribution will help to support our Mission to provide Emergency Resources, Housing, Food, Shelter and Suicide Prevention Training to Yavapai County’s LGBTQ+ and underserved populations.