GLAAD finishes #SouthernStories tour with LGBTQ-affirming riverside baptism, church service

GLAAD finished the Alabama and Mississippi leg of its 2016 Southern Stories Summer Tour with Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church (JGMCC) over the weekend. GLAAD’s Director of Programs – U.S. South & Global, Ross Murray, as well Alexandra Bolles, GLAAD’s Senior Programs Strategist – U.S. South & Global, were on the trip.

Joshua Generation MCC is a radically affirming and inclusive church that welcomes anyone regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or social status.

JGMCC held its first baptism on Saturday in Little Black Creek in Mississippi. The service began with the church’s choir, known as the Praise Team, singing songs like Amazing Grace. 22 people were individually baptized as the church community sang Down To The River To Pray. The baptisms were followed by a cookout, flag football, and everyone enjoying each other’s company. GLAAD spoke to several church members about their stories and experiences of being LGBTQ in the Hospitality State.

On Sunday morning, Ross, who is also a deaconal minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church preached at Joshua Generation MCC. In his sermon, Ross spoke to the congregation, which typically sees around 80 parishioners each week, about recent tragic killings all around the world, affirming that God loves everyone, and encourage everyone to show that love to others.

You can watch part one and part two of the service in full online.

The church's pastor and founder, Brandiilyne Dear has been a leader in LGBT advocacy in Mississippi, both in the religious community and beyond. She is also the founder of the Dandelion Project.

GLAAD visited Jacksonville, Florida last month, and in the past week, visited Birmingham, Alabama as well as Jackson, Long Beach, and Hattiesburg in Mississippi. GLAAD met with LGBT community members and leading advocates across these cities and worked to amplify their voices in order to accelerate LGBT acceptance across the U.S. South. In partnership with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, GLAAD hosted a community dinner and town hall discussion about the state of being LGBT in Southern Mississippi. You can see pictures from the event here.

To view the full 2016 Southern Stories Summer Tour schedule in detail, click here.