In a queer world, it’s natural to seek a safe harbour. Halifax’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community lost one of its spiritual docks last month when Safe Harbour Metropolitan Community Church closed its doors because of financial trouble.
When the church realized it couldn’t afford to pay its pastor even $36,000 a year, Safe Harbour made the decision to shut down. It has struggled since 2008, when the pastor of nearly two decades, Rev Darlene Young, died. Rev Bob Bond served as acting pastor from 2009 to January 2010, until Jennifer Paty took over.
The Chronicle Herald quoted from a letter dated March 2011, in which Bond questioned the decision to name Paty as his replacement.
Bond wrote: “I believe the selection of [Paty] was for the wrong reasons. I knew from my arrival at [Safe Harbour] that some influential people in the congregation had decided on [Paty] as the next pastor for the church… Power struggles were conducted to make certain the right people were in power positions to make this happen.”
Paty left Safe Harbour in late April.
The congregation found out about the church’s potential closure via Facebook. Bond’s letter addresses the “significant hurt and anxiety” the closure caused churchgoers.
The Halifax Metropolitan Community Church was founded in 1969, the organization’s only congregation east of Toronto. It was the first church in the Halifax area to accept gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. When other denominations dismissed gay people, Safe Harbour opened its doors.
Nestled in the heart of the Hydrostone with views of the shipyard, Safe Harbour Metropolitan rented the board room of Veith House.
Originally founded in 1991 by JJ Lyon, Robert Byers, Bruce Moore and Terry Parker, the congregation first met above the AIDS Coalition office on Gottingen St. Once the congregation became a part of the Metropolitan Community Church, Safe Harbour began meeting at Brunswick United Church. In 2004 they relocated to a space in Bloomfield Centre and moved to Veith St two years later.
After a vote, the congregation of 27 disbanded in mid-April. Fifty worshippers gathered June 26 for a final service. Rev Elder Diane Fisher, a bishop of the Metropolitan Community Church, presided over the two-hour service.
Fisher says it saddens her to see another church close, though it’s not unusual. She hopes that in due time sexuality and spirituality can exist together in all congregations.
At one time, the church’s closing might have left gay Christians with few options, but no longer. Other gay- and trans-friendly churches in Halifax include Koinonia Church, Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, St Andrew’s United Church, St John’s United Church and St Matthew’s United Church.
Outside of the city worshippers can find Bedford United Church, Bridgewater United Church, Caledonia United Church, Dartmouth’s Christ Church and Stairs Memorial United Church, Trinity United Church in Shelbourne, Tatamagouche Centre, Truro’s St Andrew’s United Church and Yarmouth’s Holy Trinity.