Grace United Church has long been known as an ally for the LGBTQ community and they made it very clear, Thursday afternoon.
A bright, new rainbow leads the way to one of the entrances of the Grove Street East place of worship.
Seven people used up 14 litres of paint for six different rainbow colours to get the job done.
Grace United’s youth ministries co-ordinator, Jeffrey Dale, spearheaded the painting. He told BarrieToday he was very thankful to the church board for giving the project the go-ahead.
“Myself and fellow minister Susan Eagle had been discussing it and had seen other churches do it, one out west and one in northern Ontario,” Dale said. “I talked to the youth group to see if they and their parents wanted to paint it and they certainly did. Then I asked permission of the board on Wednesday, they approved it and I said, ‘Oh good, it's happening'.”
Dale admits not every church would agree to showcasing its support for the LGBTQ community, but he said that Grace United has long been a safe place.
“A story that was told to me was of a young, gay man in the 1980s who had returned to Barrie from being away. He was now dying of AIDS and wanted to be home,” Dale said. “Grace was the one church community who welcomed him in. He wasn’t with them very long, but he became a family member to them all. After that, (the congregation) became a very welcoming place.”
In 1988, the United Church of Canada began ordaining gay and lesbian ministers, a move Grace United supported.
While Dale was very happy to have support of the church’s administration, he was even more thrilled to see the action of the church’s congregation yesterday.
“Having the youth and their parents be the ones to paint it was a really important aspect to this,” he said. “It showed there was an initiative and drive from the younger families to have their church connect in this intentional way.”
Dale has been active in Simcoe Pride, the Gilbert Centre and other organizations in the city.
“For me, my faith is completely connected to my sexual orientation and I know for many it is. I also know that, for many people, sexual orientation is what keeps them separate from the church,” Dale said. “When a church does the intentional and unconditional work to prove itself to the gay community, I think it makes all the difference to many.”