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Harlem's Only Black LGBT Church Searches for a Home

by Mariana Palau | Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rivers of Living Water has become a place of refuge for African-American LGBT Christians, but it's a church without a home. As is the first black church in Harlem to declare itself as "radically inclusive and open and affirming" of the LGBT community, the majority of its congregation, along with its entire ministry, is LGBT. And unlike the few Harlem churches that open their doors to gay members, Rivers of Living Water performs same sex marriage ceremonies. But embracing the LGBT has come with a cost: Senior pastor Vanessa Brown says that because the black church still condemns homosexuality, she has had trouble finding a proper space for her congregation to worship. "I find myself, when trying to do business deals around space with other churches, that I don't tell them what kind of church this is — for fear that they are going to pull back of the deal," says Pastor Brown, adding that she sometimes sends people on her behalf to search for space. As of today, Rivers of Living Water is holding its services in the basement of the United Methodist Church (263 West 86th Street) on the Upper West Side. Pastor Brown says she would like to move back to Harlem, but looking for a space there has become a long and arduous process. [Feedback:]

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