Paper fans fluttered and tambourines jingled during the opening hymns of Inner Light Ministries’ Sunday service. July heat had crept into the small, wood-paneled sanctuary early, and the pews were packed. The church was celebrating its 19th anniversary and honoring its founder, Bishop Rainey Cheeks, who has entered his 30th year in ministry. Inner Light embodies the vibrance of the Southern black church, but its congregation remains at the fringes of the Christian tradition. It was among the first predominantly African American ministries in the District to welcome people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), as well as those struggling with AIDS.
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