After 19 years of serving the LGBT community, the Liberation United Church of Christ is closing its doors on Madison Avenue.
The church will host its last service on Christmas Eve.
The building at 13714 Madison Avenue has been home to the church for the past 14 years. When the church began in a community center at Case Western University in 1993, churches weren’t too accepting of the gay community.
However, as society became more inclusive, so did churches.
“Twenty years ago there were very few churches welcoming the LGBT Community into full membership, either as clergy or as members,” said the church’s pastor Rev. Kurt Wieser. “(Liberation) was established by the United Church of Christ to be just that, a worshiping community for and by LGBT persons. In recent years the church and society have changed.”
For the Liberation church, that means that there’s been a gradual decline in membership, as well as dwindling resources.
“In a way, this transition for us has been the answer to our prayer: that someday we would be so integrated into society and the Church that ministries like this would no longer be needed,” said Wieser, who has served as senior pastor for the past 10 years. “It was not an easy decision.”
The final ruling to dissolve and close the church was made at a special congregational meeting last Sunday.
“Some people who have been hurt by the Church in the past are still seeking us out, but the reality is that this ministry is no longer sustainable,” said Wieser.
“Our work is not done by any stretch of the imagination, but the society we live in today as well as the Church are far more welcoming,” he added. “The net result on Liberation in recent years was to position us as a re-entry point rather than a permanent home for LGBT folks.”
In its 19 years, Liberation has worked closely with a number of organizations, including the Lakewood Community Services Center, community meals programs, AIDS Food Bank collections, Cleveland Pride and Equality Ohio Lobby Days.
The Liberation facility has also hosted the to Community United Head Start and Day Care, several AA groups, the Lakewood High School Gay-Straight Alliance and others. The facility will continue to be home for the head start program and other groups currently using the building for classes and meetings.
The church will host a “special service of celebration and gratitude” at 2 p.m. Dec. 23.
The next day, the church will officially close following its Christmas Eve Service at 10 p.m.
“In the meantime I am encouraging folks to form small communities to go out together to find new church homes, so they have a small 'family' at their new settings when they arrive,” Wieser said.