“Open your heart, open it wide, spread kindness so much that when you’re done, people will be in a better place.”
I feel that we brought this quote to life on the evening of Saturday January 14th when approxi-mately 150 people came to ChOTF to see the film, “Letter to Anita” This film tells the story of a woman named Ronni Sanlo who, after coming out as a les-bian and losing custody of her two young children in the late 1970’s turned her life into building commu-nity through her personal, political and professional struggles. The film offers insight into the history of the LGBT movement in the 1970’s and the enor-mous impact singer/entertainer Anita Bryant had on the anti-gay campaign.
I thought this was a very insightful film and it provided me with a deeper and more specific under-standing of the adversities the LGBT movement has faced. It also gave me fuller awareness of the role Anita Bryant played during the “anti-gay” crusade in the 70’s and its life changing and far reaching impact. I thought one of the most powerful lines in the movie came toward the end when Ronnie tells inter-viewer Meredith Baxter that she was grateful to Anita Bryant for being in essence the catalyst that galva-nized activist in action and brought the LGBT move-ment to life.
It was exciting to see the tables in the Fellow-ship Hall filled with so many people and even more exciting to know that the director, Andrea Meyerson, and main character, Ronni Sanlo, were among the audience. Many of those in attendance were marvel-ing that this movie was being shown at a church in Orange County and it was wonderful that they left now knowing that we have “safe space” for all within our Christian community. I would like to thank our Open and Affirming Ministry for sponsoring this movie night and I look forward to similar events in the future.
Decisions of the past are having a positive impact on what’s happening in the present. It was one year ago in January, during a church planning session in the Fellowship Hall, that the two top priorities for our church were identified as: 1. promote Progressive Christianity and our progressive church in the community; 2. transform our church to meet the needs of younger generations.
2016 was another good year of growth and exposure for our church and our brand of progressive faith. Sometimes we grew by intentionally planned events and ministries, such as the Historical Jesus class in the fall that attracted nearly fifty people. At other times events beyond our control, such as the fall election, contributed to people seeking us. The change in start of worship time to 9:45 AM, a request initiated by our families with children, has also helped increase attendance.
The effort to transform the church to meet the needs of younger generations has taken subtle but significant steps. One area of ministry that has drawn in younger adults is music.Tina Peterson’s contact with present and former students at Irvine High School, as well as a quality yet diverse music program, has helped.
One project that has the potential to advance both goals is an update of the sanctuary audio-visual system. Finance Ministry and the Cabinet have affirmed this as our top need. One of our leading young adults, Justin Underwood, engineer trained and head of our church audio-visual team, has been receiving bids on upgrading our system to meet the needs of a 21st Century Church. Estimates are that what we need would run upwards of $60,000.
For many years we talked and dreamed of having solar panels. Only when a generous donor pro-vided seed money in the amount of $50,000 did the church raise the balance and panels were installed (one year ago!). Now we are look-ing, and I am praying, for seed money for a new audio-visual sys-tem. Such designated gifts need to be above and beyond pledged mon-ies. But to more effectively promote progressive Christianity and our church, and to reach younger, tech savvy generations, we need to act.