Shore Church extends its welcoming attitude to LGBTQ teens | faith matters
Nine boys invaded my invisible circle of tranquility on Manasquan Beach last week. When the last one joined the group, the tallest one said to this boy for all to hear, “You’re wearing white socks on the beach!” What are you gay?” The ridiculed boy remained silent the entire time they were together.
That kind of attitude resonated with a church member who grew up in Manasquan, whom she found intolerant of gay people. She recalled a male friend in high school who was gay and was afraid of being teased if he came out, so he waited to do so until he went to college.
It was different for her, however. She came out as a lesbian to her parents.
Today, she lives out of town, but drives 30 minutes to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manasquan (locally known simply as “Trinity”).
The church has two committees: Evangelism and Peace and Justice. It was through the latter that he recently joined forces with The Trevor Project, a national group that provides LGBTQ teens with a safe space. Trevor provides 24/7 suicide counseling and a range of services to help gay teens and, especially today, trans teens manage their emotions.
Young people’s mental health is indeed at a “crisis” point for many reasons, including LGBTQ issues, said committee co-chair Letitia Jensen.
“Gay teenagers, even today, often attempt suicide and find it difficult to come out,” said a committee member.
The committee, Jensen said, took a “deep dive” into the struggles of young LGBTQ people, including watching and discussing the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” and reading “This Is the Way It Always Is.” , by Laurie Frankel. , which tells the story of a family of five boys, the youngest of whom is transgender.
Reverend Mary Farnham, pastor of Trinity, has worked hard during her 26 years in office to make it “a welcoming community providing a safe space for LGBTQ youth and adults.”
All people “are welcome to bring their gifts to the table,” she said, adding that they “accept the members as they are.”
The congregation, which it says is one of the largest Evangelical Lutheran churches in the state, has 625 confirmed active members. Before COVID, some 250 people attended Mass each weekend, and the church is slowly returning to that benchmark. About 100 children and young people are involved in the Christian Education and Youth Programs in secondary school with more than 30 baptized children who are not yet of Sunday School age.
Farnham’s genius is in convincing people to “own and invest time and talent”. And that certainly convinced Jensen, 74, who only joined in 2021. The Brielle resident was a birthplace Presbyterian and used to drive 30 minutes every Sunday to get to her church elsewhere in the Monmouth County. She became increasingly angered by the anti-immigration rhetoric around the country and thought her “head was going to explode”. A friend directed her to Trinity where she found the cult relevant to addressing the pressing social issues of the time.
Farnham was raised Catholic and graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in theology. She ‘wanted to bring the gospel to the council chamber’ and studied for seminary at the vanguard Union Theological in Manhattan, directly across from Columbia University, where her parents met in college. . She then decided to convert to Lutheranism and become a pastor.
His parishioners and townspeople attribute Trinity’s success to Farnham’s personality and leadership style.
“She has a way of threading the needle of various positions in the congregation,” Jensen said.
LuAnn Barnes, who once worked at St. Matthew’s-Trinity, Hoboken, and is now the executive assistant to the bishop of the State Synod and Worship in Manasquan, said Farnham “has a knack for working in a ecumenical with local ministry (other denominations in town) in conversation and dialogue.
Trinity’s property and buildings around 1848 were first Presbyterian and then Congregational before housing the Lutheran Church 75 years after it was built. They look pristine and are quite impressive in the historic style of early Philadelphia. But they now house a modern congregation.
When you drive into Manasquan, Atlantic Avenue curves and you drive right by their church sign, which often has an inspirational message from an inspirational pastor. She deflects the distinctions and simply says that Martin Luther was Catholic first, as she was. This may be the secret sauce of its success.
Reverend Alexander Santora is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07030. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @padrehoboken.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 6 Osborn Avenue in Manasquan. For more information, call 732-223-0533 or visit holytrinity-elca.org.
For more information on The Trevor Project, visit thetrevorproject.org. Teens in crisis can call 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678-678.