“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (New King James Version)
In 1979, a group of people got together in Charlotte with a vision of having an MCC presence here in the Queen City. Metropolitan Community Church had been founded in 1968 by Rev. Troy D. Perry in Southern California and quickly became a much-needed safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ people to worship in cities across the country. Today, the church has congregations in over 20 countries. There are six in North Carolina, with one in Charlotte and one in nearby Gastonia.
The Charlotte church, now also known as the Queen City Worship Center, was granted a charter by MCC in 1981, and Rev. Perry spoke at the first official service on November 22 of that year. Rev. Lynn Guerra was the first elected pastor of the church and its attendance and influence grew quickly in the next decade.
Ups and downs
In 1986, MCC Charlotte leased part of the third floor of the historic Varnadore Building on Independence Blvd. Within a few years, it occupied the entire seventh floor. By 1999, the church purchased a building at 1825 Eastway Drive and continued to flourish. Churchgoers describe the years that followed as some of the most exciting in its history.
“It was packed,” says Isy Ros, a longtime member of the church.
MCC Charlotte had become a vital part of the local LGBTQ community.
Bill Badgett, a member of the church since 1984, also remembers how local news media always reached out to MCC Charlotte’s leadership on issues concerning the community. “In years past, MCC Charlotte was a very well respected entity in the LGBTQ community,” says Badgett. He served on the board of directors for over ten years.
“Over time it seems that has dissipated, and in fact, probably to the point where I couldn’t tell you the last time was I can remember someone reached out to the pastor to ask them a question about anything in regards to LGBTQ issues in the city of Charlotte.”
Ros remembers participating in Pride festivals, marching in the parade together. “I remember being involved with Time Out Youth and some of their events. We’ve been very involved with House of Mercy, providing support for them, and the AIDS Walk – every year raising funds and walking with them,” she says. The church was alive with social activities, dances, concerts, a food pantry, children’s ministry, vacation bible school and community clothing closet.
“People liked the idea of their church having an actual church building,” recalls Ros. “We had like 250 members at some point.”
But by 2014, attendance had started to dwindle and they had to sell the building.
“People started leaving. They stopped giving, and then it unravels,” says Ros.
The congregation moved to a leased property at 7121 Orr Road, but that only caused further declines.
Rev. Catherine Houchins retired in 2016 after serving for eight years. Rev. Wanda Floyd became the transitional pastor before becoming the denomination’s Emerging Church Specialist a year later. In March 2018, the congregation elected Rev. Todd Goewey as its new senior pastor. Goewey passed away eight months later. Rev. Paul Whiting was appointed as provisional pastor the following year and was elected as permanent pastor in 2020.
At the time, Rev. Whiting was eager to revitalize MCC Charlotte, but realized the challenges it faced. Many thought the church had closed.
“We have not gone away,” Rev. Whiting told Qnotes in 2019. “Locations are important to LGBT people, because they are safe spaces that become connected to cherished memories. When MCC relocated there was a sense of loss. But although the other building is gone, the organization has not closed!”
We all know what happened next. In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic caused lockdowns which had an immediate impact on churches across the nation. MCC Charlotte suspended in-person activities and went to a virtual ministry on Facebook and Zoom.
According to the church’s website, “the ongoing impact prompted the board to affirm a task force to look at options for the future of our ministry.” The church’s congregation voted to leave its Orr Road location and explore alternative forms of ministry. It also changed its name to Queen City Worship Center (QCWC). Whiting stepped down in June 2021.
In-person services are now led by a gap pastor, Rev. Dr. Renee DuBose in its temporary home at 6300 E. Independence Boulevard. The church still live-streams its Sunday services as well.
With attendance often only 12-15 people weekly, the small number of members left are now asking if the church can go on.
Losing a Place to Call Home
Ros was born and raised a Catholic in Cuba. She left when she was 14 years old and found she wanted nothing to do with the church. “There was just something about it that didn’t sit right with me, but I’ve always had a relationship with God,” she says. In fact, Ros had not felt comfortable with any denomination or religion since coming out as a lesbian.
Then in the mid-1980s, while living in California, a friend took Ros to an MCC church in North Hollywood. “I just felt like I had come home,” she said. “I never realized that I had felt like that, that I was missing something until I joined that church.”
After moving to Charlotte with her partner in 1996, she quickly found the local MCC church. In 2000, she became a member and got more involved in its ministries. She served on the board until last year and continues to help with the food pantry, which is done in partnership with Sacred Souls Community Church and Second Harvest.
She’s saddened by the loss of MCC in Charlotte’s LGBTQ community. “Even though a lot of churches are affirming, it’s not the same to me as being in a place where you are not only affirmed or welcomed, but it was built for you. This church was created for us and its sad,” she says. “We’re not the only church that’s going through this.”
According to Gallup, American’s membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in the study’s history.
People are also finding different forms of spirituality online and the relationship between the LGBTQ community and religion continues to be, well – complicated.
To Ros, MCC Charlotte’s current chapter resembles the stages of grieving. “To everything there is a season. We’ve gone through a lot of acceptance.”
“We’re at the point now where’s there’s just less and less of us,” she says. “It’s been very hard and very stressful for those of us who were left behind, if you will, to continue that. So, some of us have decided, you know what, maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time.”
If the church closes, Ros plans to join the congregation at Sacred Souls, which is led by Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls.
That will be a big change in her life. Even when she travels, she finds an MCC to visit. “I know that I’m going to find my people there. I’m going to find my God there,” she says.
Holding back tears, the loss of that spiritual home created by MCC is probably the biggest thing for Ros.
“I always hoped that people and kids and young people would find a place that they would come in and say, you know, I feel accepted here. I feel loved. I feel that I’m not being rejected. God loves me.” Ros continues, “I wanted to be able to be there for them. That’s the saddest part of us closing is the fact that this presence won’t be there for them if they choose to try to find that.”
The future of the Queen City Worship Center, or MCC Charlotte, is still unknown.
Rev. Dr. DuBose’s contract has been renewed through the end of February. If the church votes to close, she plans to assist as much as she can but plans are already in place for her and her wife to move back to Georgia in mid to late-March. “We delayed our move a month or so because I don’t want to leave MCC Charlotte during this stressful and transitional time,” said Rev. Dr. DuBose in an email.
The church had a meeting on January 23 with MCC National leader Rev. Rebecca Wilson to discuss its options. Wilson is responsible for working with affiliated churches and supporting pastoral transitions. The board members left that meeting with the task of gathering more information from its current membership, including if people choose to be moved to an inactive status.
There are currently 51 members of the church, however several have already asked to move to that inactive status according to Rev. Dr. DuBose. Any decision to close would have to be a vote of the full (active) membership. A special congregational meeting will be set sometime in the near future for the purpose of voting on whether or not to close the church.
Despite the outcome, MCC Charlotte will always have an important role in Charlotte’s LGBTQ history. “I would imagine there would be some type of celebration for all the years MCC Charlotte has been in service to the community,” said Rev. Dr. DuBose.