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Rivers of Living Water has become a place of refuge for African-American LGBT Christians, but it’s a church without a home.
The Harlem church declares itself “radically inclusive and open and affirming” of the LGBT community, and the majority of its congregation, along with its entire ministry, is LGBT. And unlike the few other Harlem churches that open their doors to gay members, Rivers of Living Water performs same-sex marriage ceremonies.
But embracing the LGBT community has come with a cost: Senior pastor Vanessa Brown says that because black religious organizations largely still condemn 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,” Brown says, 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.
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