Summer Centered: Michael Weber ’19 Takes Pride in Inclusivity
The religion major with a concentration in peace, justice, and human rights is 'queering' ideas of religious possibilities at Metropolitan Community Church in New York City this summer.
For some, the idea of queerness existing alongside religion or spirituality may seem incompatible on the surface. But at the Metropolitan Community Church in New York (MCCNY), religion major Michael Weber ’19 is discovering space for people with LGBTQ identities to not only be tolerated, but to be welcomed and actively included in religious dialogue and community.
The first Metropolitan Community Church was founded in Los Angeles, Calif., by openly gay minister Troy Perry in 1968 after Perry was kicked out of his former denomination, and MCCNY was founded shortly in 1972. The organization first appeared on Weber’s radar after taking “Queer Religion” with Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Brett Krutzsch this spring.
"The Metropolitan Community Church was relevant to our class because we were exploring the construction of a division and opposition between religion and queerness,” said Weber. “Metropolitan Community Church and Troy Perry were a spectacle in the early 1970s because they disrupted that division. MCCNY is a cool place to be to ask questions that interest me in my studies, like: What role does religion play in people’s lives alongside other parts of their selves and identities, and how do ideally inclusive groups decide where their boundaries are?”
Weber saw the opportunity to design his own internship at MCCNY with support from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship as a chance to learn more about the organization so relevant to his academic interests, to join a community that does direct and intentional social work and outreach, and to revisit his own religious perspective.
"I didn’t grow up religious but joined a Unitarian Universalist Church during my senior year of high school, and I was looking forward to exploring my spirituality again,” he said. “I’m not sure what my future holds, but this has definitely made me think seriously for the first time about what a career in ministry work might look like, especially after talking with multiple people here who plan to become ordained after never considering that path before coming to MCCNY.”
Most days at his internship, Weber helps with a variety of tasks including setting up lunch distribution at the food pantry, writing for the MCCNY newsletter, updating the organization’s social media, and attending and setting up for Sunday services each week.
"I’m learning partially all the different moving parts that go into church and ministry work, especially in a church that manages multiple social services alongside their worship and affinity groups,” said Weber. “More specifically, I’m learning from conversations with church members what this place means to them. Almost all of them have really interesting stories to share, and many have been with the church for a long long time and have a lot of stuff to say about how the church has changed and how they have changed, too.”
Working at MCCNY over the summer and during Pride Month also presents unique chances for Weber to engage in queer activism and experience a personal sense of belonging within the LGBTQ community by participating in Pride celebrations.
"Marching in Pride parades has been a really eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “I had never been to a Pride event before this month, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I identify as pansexual or bisexual, but that’s a relatively new thing for me, and I wasn’t sure if I would fit in this summer. Being in a parade where I hold a banner that says ‘God Made Me Queer’ feels like a pretty bold move because I haven’t had much experience proclaiming to the world that I’m not straight. But the energy of the crowds has been invigorating, and I think people enjoy that we are sort of defying any so-called Christians who don’t think queerness has any place in religious life.”
"Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.