MANATEE — Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church, which historically has served gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender worshippers but is reaching out to the straight population as well, has a new pastor and ambitious plans for growth.
The Rev. Charles Tigard, 35, was recently named senior pastor, replacing the Rev. Lisa Heilig, who served as interim pastor for two years at the church, 7225 Lockwood Ridge Road.
The church seeks to reach out to all worshippers, Tigard says.
“We are really the place where everyone is welcome,” he said. “This church is ready for major growth. We received seven members last Sunday. We’re entering the season, too.”
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Membership totals about 230, drawn from throughout the area.
Trinity MCC is on a sprawling 20-acre campus, framed by mature oaks with Spanish moss hanging from their branches.
Under the Rev. Mona West, then pastor, the church commissioned plans for a new sanctuary several years ago. West is now in Texas, overseeing leadership development for MCC.
Architect Carl Abbott’s model shows a modern building that seems to soar with a wing-like feature connected by a long boardwalk through a wetland preserve to a meditation area.
“I want to see us more visible in the community and for people in the neighborhood to feel like they can find a worship home here,” Tigard said.
Services are held at 9:15 and 11 a.m. Sundays, and there is a community dinner at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. The public is invited. Price is $8. Many find the dinner a casual and friendly way to get introduced to members.
“It’s a great way for people to connect outside of Sunday services,” Tigard said.
The local congregation, formed in 1981 when it met in members’ homes, has been at the Lockwood Ridge Road location since 1989.
Paul DiPlacido, director of administration and a director of Trinity Charities, said he and his partner moved to Palm-Aire in 2000.
“It was 9/11 that brought us here. We felt we needed something spiritual as an anchor,” DiPlacido said. “Everyone is accepted here.
“Charles’ arrival is like a new beginning,” he added. “We’re moving forward now and I want to be part of that.”
Trinity MCC is one of about 20 local sanctuaries that have been designated as safe places for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
Trinity members are among those who plan to take part in the vigil against bullying at Sarasota’s Bayfront park 6 p.m. Sunday.
“We are entering into a national dialogue,” Tigard said. “We can at least talk about it. Bullying has always been around. Another positive sign is that more churches want to be known as safe places for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“Anyone who is seen as different can be the target of bullying,” Tigard said.
Tigard welcomed a federal judge’s ruling this week striking down the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays serving in uniform.
“That’s really good news. The military needs to be open to anyone who wants to serve,” he said. “It’s time anyone can serve our country freely, openly, regardless of who they are. That would make our military stronger.”
The Pentagon announced Thursday that it would stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Obama administration has said it will appeal the ruling. “We’re holding our breath,” Tigard said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.
IF YOU GO
Name: Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church
Address: 7225 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, southern Manatee County
Senior Pastor: Rev. Charles Tigard
Services: 9:15 and 11 a.m. Sunday; community dinner 6 p.m. Wednesdays
Information: www.TrinityMCC.com and (941) 355-0847