NORMAN — A United Methodist church is reaching out to the community through a series of videos produced with help from University of Oklahoma students.
St. Stephen's United Methodist Church, 1801 W Brooks, produced 10 videos as part of its “It Gets Better” project.
The Rev. Amy Venable, the church's pastor, said the videos, launched in May, are designed to combat bullying and to help promote the church's Reconciling Ministry, which welcomes the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community.
She said the idea came from church member Jason Martin, co-chair of the church's Reconciling Ministries Committee, after a spate of suicides gained local and national attention.
“It was the season of all these unfortunate suicides,” Venable said.
She said on the local level, Martin and other church members were alarmed at the suicide of a Norman man after a contentious October 2010 Norman City Council meeting in which community members spoke out against a proposal to recognize October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in Norman.
On a national level, Venable said church members also were troubled when Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide in September 2010 after his college roommate posted online a webcam video of Clementi kissing another man.
Venable, 39, said the church's “It Gets Better” videos are one way the church can tell the surrounding community that it is an open and affirming church that welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation.
“We are first and foremost a United Methodist church but we also realize that if we didn't say out loud that we welcome GLBT then they wouldn't know that they are welcome,” she said.
The church received an award for the video project in May.
The project was recognized as the best lay-led ministry project from the United Methodist Church South Oklahoma City District at a luncheon in Tulsa held in conjunction with the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference's annual meeting.
Each of the videos features either an individual or a couple sharing their thoughts about the many ways St. Stephen's welcomes all people.
Martin's video in particular is eye-opening because he shares his testimony as a gay man who found a warm and inviting church family at St. Stephen's.
Martin, 37, said he wanted the church's video series to be part of the national “It Gets Better” video movement that began in 2010 in response to bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and adults. He said the goal of the movement is to share with bullying victims that they are not alone and “life does get better.”
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