Meet Justin Delong our guest blogger this week!
Justin is a Seventy serving as the Mission Center Invitational Support Minister in the Bountiful Mission Center. Justin attended Graceland University which led to a summer internship in Chattanooga where he lived for 5 years. After returning to Ohio, he responded to a need in the community by starting a new church plant that was active in reaching the LGBTQ+ community.
We are excited to have Justin share his thoughts and experiences with us!
Following the mission of Jesus can often be difficult and uncomfortable. We live in a world that is divisive, hurtful and oppressing to millions of people. In the community surrounding the Portsmouth Welcoming Community, we see a community that is often disowned by family, condemned by churches and oppressed by society. Those who identify as LGBTQ+ often grow up hearing how worthless they are and how they are an abomination. Their dignity and self-worth are often questioned and damaged; leading to a lifetime of fear, poor self-esteem and pain.
As the church, we are called to recognize the worth, dignity and sacredness of all of God’s children. We are called to pray, study and seek understanding. We are called to dive into the scriptures to understand the context of what we are reading. So many people are hurt and condemned by misuse of scripture; especially in the LGBTQ+ community.
Live the Mission We Preach
The Portsmouth Welcoming Community formed to help bring hope and new understanding to those who have lost trust in Christianity but are seeking a spiritual home. As I meet with people who have been kicked out of their church, disowned by their family; those who have contemplated or attempted suicide; people who are living with the pain of hating themselves and do not see their value, I am reminded of the church’s call to live the mission that we preach.
If we truly follow Jesus, we will seek ways to bring healing and to restore wholeness to the lives of others. We do our best to not get caught up in Sunday morning rituals of what we typically see in church, but seek ways to build relationships with others despite where they are at in their journey.
We are often called to step outside of the box that makes us comfortable to reach those who are seeking a community of hope, love and support. We are called to reach those who fail to see the value of their lives and those who are living through hell in this life.
A Diverse Community
The Portsmouth Welcoming Community isn’t a congregation just for the LGBTQ+ community; its a welcoming congregation to everyone who seeks to live in community with others and celebrate the diversity among us. We try to stand against injustice and walk hand in hand with those fighting for their self-worth and dignity. This mission that we represent calls us into all arenas of life that seek to bring justice and wholeness to society.
Creating Safe Space
Our call in our community is to create a safe space for those who are seeking to build relationships. We adapt to meet people where they are at in their journey by hosting Coffee and Conversation about topics that are important to bringing justice in the community. We offer LGBTQ+ support groups for those who need love and support in their life.
For those seeking a spiritual home, we offer Welcoming Church specifically designed to nurture the spiritual path of those yearning for a spiritual home while at the same time celebrating diversity. We offer educational workshops and book studies that bring awareness to LGBTQ+ issues, racism, addiction, homelessness and religious diversity that helps to educate and bring awareness to the community.
Bringing Wholeness to Creation
We live in a world that needs more Jesus. We need the real Jesus that calls us to live radically by reaching those on the margins of society. Jesus lived his life challenging systems of oppression that marginalized God’s children. If we follow Jesus, we must live the mission that Jesus lived. That mission will be uncomfortable and unpopular. It will challenge your faith and will require sacrifice.
As you extend your hand to reach those needing your love and support, you will catch a glimpse of God’s vision for creation. You will gain understanding to what really matters in life. As you build relationships, you will recognize God’s love for his children. As we risk to try something new, a real difference can be made in the lives of those who need to hear the redeeming message of Jesus that seeks to restore their worth and bring wholeness to the whole creation.
A big thank you to Justin Delong for sharing about the Portsmouth Welcoming Community and the welcoming mission of Jesus.
This week sit down with someone different than you and listen to their story! Also please pray for the Methodist Church Family and the hurt taking place over their recent decisions.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.