Saturday, June 10, 2023

Relics from Metropolitan Community Churches to be Included in Smithsonian Collections

The founder of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), Rev. Troy Perry, will make a historical presentation of personal artifacts to the Smithsonian Museum on October 6 in Washington, DC.

According to a recent post by the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), the Smithsonian Museum staff will receive the donation on the MCC’s 51st anniversary at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, DC, as part of its Sunday service.

“It is such an honor to be included in the Smithsonian collection, especially the National Museum of American History. To be able to live through the history, I believe we only remember when we save our history. In MCC, we have saved history,” Rev. Perry said.

Of the 12 items in the collection, Rev. Perry will present two items in person and send the remaining to the Smithsonian. Perry said when he considered what had been important for the last 50 years, he chose his beloved copy of Book of Common Prayer.

“I used it for the first [MCC] service. And for the first same-gender wedding. And I used it for all of the HIV/AIDS funerals–more than I can count. It’s 50 years of memories. In the front is my PO Box in Huntington Park,” Rev. Perry said.

The second artifact is a book in which he wrote his sermons.

“They wanted something in my own handwriting. They will need someone to interpret,” he said, laughing. “I make notes rather than write out my sermons.”

“When they contacted me, they said, ‘Rev. Perry, do you have something important to you as a child?’ The first thing I thought of, because of Mother, she made a book of grandparents, holding us as children. I’ll give them the photographs. It goes up to the 50th anniversary at Founders (formerly MCC Los Angeles),” Rev. Perry said.

Rev. Perry said he will send the vestments he wore on MCC’s 50th anniversary at Founders, which were the same he wore at the 2019 General Conference, a gold chasuble and stole.

“I’ve worn them for every march on Washington for marriage rights, where we did mass weddings, demonstrating for our rights,” Rev. Perry said. “That was one thing in my life I wanted to do–legally marry. I’m thankful that some of the donations to the Smithsonian are about marriage.”

Another artifact is from, what Rev. Perry called, “The Year of Persecution in 1973.” A glass cross was made from salvaged stained glass that had been nearly destroyed in the church fire. “MCCLA,” is etched on the front of the cross, and on the back, it says, “From Mother Church” with a photo of the window that was damaged.

The remaining donations are relics from MCC:

  • A Hymnbook that survived the LA fire, damaged by water and soot.
  • MCC San Francisco (MCCSF) Charter describing the rights of membership.
  • General Conference Programs Books from the 25th, 40th, 50th years to provide information about MCC’s growth and General Conference programming.
  • Inclusive hymnal from 1990 that was sold to churches. With permission, the lyrics were changed to reflect inclusive language.
  • The original “Homosexuality: Not a Sickness, Not a Sin” written by Don Eastman in the 1970s, published in the 1980s. MCC sold over 100,000 copies. It explained the Fellowship’s belief about sexuality and spirituality.
  • Original copy of a 1971 issue of Life Magazine with a photo of Rev. Perry marrying a couple in the LA church while holding his Book of Common Prayer.
  • An original copy of the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall service of Faith and Freedom at Alice Tully Hall. The combined choirs of MCC and Unity Fellowship in New York performed.

Katherine Ott, the curator of medicine and science for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History will be at the presentation.

Contributors to the collection are Troy Perry and Phillip De Blieck; Frank Zerrelli and Franklin Calvin; Nancy Wilson and Paula Shoenwether; Steve Pieters; Lucia Chappell; Lynn Jordan; the archives of the Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco, California, USA; Kittredge Cherry and Audrey Lockwood; Jean Gralley, Mark Mell and Paul Moyer, Mark Hahn, and Don Eastman.

MCC Staff Member Lauren Bennett worked with the Smithsonian Institution to make this gift to the nation possible.

Rev. Perry said he is thankful for archival work at the University of Southern California and The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.

“Now with Smithsonian, this is the cherry on top of the cake. Everyone is thrilled,” Rev. Perry said.

The New Life Metropolitan Community Church (NLMCC) of Hampton Roads is part of the MCC family and Rev. Alberto Nájera is currently serving as a member of the MCC Governing Board.

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