Jeremy McLeod, departing as pastor of Wellspring UCC after three years, leaves the community a challenge to be a "beacon of hope" in the middle of a "bleak landscape" for gays and lesbians in northern Virginia.
"SINCE VIRGINIA wrote discrimination into the state Constitution, gay couples feel isolated and vulnerable," said McLeod. Groups like Equality Fairfax and its partners in Prince William and Loudoun, and churches like Wellspring (Centreville) and Bull Run UU (Manassas) are the exception to this atmosphere, he added.
"Northern Virginia is a suburb on steroids," McLeod said when he moved here from Denver. He was surprised at the great diversity, but also at the wealth of a county that set the poverty line at $45,000 per year for a family of four. "It's tough for working families to make it here."
He said the growth and wealth of the area masks some real poverty and pain, and these make it difficult to form community. Churches have a real role to play in helping individuals connect with others and with their own spiritual needs, said McLeod.
"Progressive Christian churches like Wellspring work to follow Jesus by embracing the dignity and worth of all people, working for peace with justice, and standing with the poorest and most vulnerable," said McLeod. These churches and groups can be "oases" where people are "treasured for who they are, and encouraged to let their gifts blossom."
McLeod and his partner Mike McCarthy are returning to the Detroit area where McLeod served as pastor years ago. He will be a full-time hospice chaplain for the Detroit office of Hospice of Michigan.
The Wellspring UCC congregation continues to meet at Centreville Fire Station 17 on Sundays, and is searching for new leadership. Small groups on contemporary theology and on the arts and spirituality meet monthly, and the congregation continues a sister relationship with Peniel Four-Square Gospel Church in Zambrano, Colombia.