My mom took my sister and I to church when I was little but, actually, I didn’t really get involved with church until I was in my 40s. I go to EMC Church. I have been a member for 25 years.
I knew about MC churches while I was stationed in San Francisco. We had what you call a fellowship, Metropolitan Community Church. The Reverend Doctor [Troy] Perry started [the Metropolitan Community Church] with 12 people in his living room in California. They just kept growing and growing. There are over 300 churches in Canada and the US. We have chapters in Japan, Germany, and Australia. So, when I came here, I looked it up in the phone book. I’m a charter member. Once you’ve got so many members you become a “chartered” church. It’s the beginning. The Reverend Austin Amerine came here to start the church. He was a pastor, but it was his calling to start churches. He was gay. He started the church here and we had about 125 members. He was the pastor with us for about five years, and then he went to Bellingham to start a church. Then he got real sick with cancer and he passed away.[EMCC had] straight allies as well. There was a couple that came every Sunday. There was another couple that didn’t come very often. Most of the people at church were gay. Of course, we accept everyone at that church. We don’t care what your walk in life is. If you walked in those doors then you were welcome. [EMCC used to have its own building.] I can’t remember what year, but it was on Lidgerwood, not very far from the Northtown Mall. It was a big brick church, about two blocks off of Division near Empire. Then the attendance fell and we weren’t able to make the payments. So they took a loss and sold it to a Korean Pentecostal church. I laugh, because being stationed in Korea, I don’t think of Koreans or Asians as Pentecostal; most of them were Buddhist.
Probably the best thing that ever happened to me when I came to Spokane was the church. When I started going to church, the way I was welcomed really made me feel good. I’ve been going there ever since. I always make sure that I go up to a person, because that is what always brings people back. That is what brought me back. They really made me feel welcome. I try not to miss church on Sundays. I don’t push my beliefs on anybody else. If somebody wants to talk about it, fine, but I don’t say “You need to be saved.” Our church is a nondenominational church: we’ve got Catholics there, we’ve got Presbyterians. We have all of them and they feel comfortable at our church.
I think [that now] there are more churches becoming more inclusive of gay people. So, maybe [more gay people] stick with a church that is not very far for them to drive, like maybe on the South Hill or places.
I know a lot of the Presbyterian churches are very accepting. In fact, when [EMCC] moved [to Bethany Presbyterian Church], we worshiped at 5:00 at night. When we moved there, their congregation had a big potluck for us, welcoming EMCC being there. I was really impressed with that. They had [LGBT] couples in their own church.
I think church attendance, whether you are straight or gay, bisexual or whatever, is declining in all churches. People just don’t go to church anymore. They find something that is their higher power, other than the God that I believe in. With people in all churches, attendance is down. I was raised going to church. One Sunday I’d go to Baptist Church . . . My mother was Baptist and my grandmother was Lutheran. So we went to church every Sunday.[I never had a crisis of faith because of my sexuality.] I knew there were parts in the Bible where you can find that being gay is an abomination. I don’t think that God or Jesus hates anyone. When I die, I know, I believe, there is a place where my soul is going to be and that is in heaven. That is the way I believe. If it wasn’t for my faith, I really don’t know where I’d be. In 1989 I had two brain aneurisms at the same time. Most people with brain aneurisms are dead—and most of them only have one. The doctor told me that I had a 50/50 chance of being blind, or paralyzed, or not even surviving surgery. I remember that when they took me in . . . I usually pray for other people, for healing of some sort, whether it is an emotional healing, a spiritual healing, whatever, but I very seldom ever pray for myself. I remember I said a prayer for myself. It was just like God put a satin blanket over me [unintelligible] and I wasn’t afraid.
I knew what my options were. I had to have the surgery and I just felt good. I wasn’t afraid. I think faith of any sort—whether you believe in God as your higher power, or whatever—people have to believe in something. They don’t have to believe the way I believe, and I don’t have to believe the way they believe. That is the way I feel about religion. I don’t go around preaching. I just know from my own experience, having this faith, what it has done to me and what it will continue to do. When people used to come up to me and say, “Oh, you need to go to church; you need to get saved,” I didn’t like that. When they would start that, I would shut them out. I don’t want people telling me how to run my life, so I don’t do it [to them]. I try to live by example. I try being good to people and being an outreach for somebody. If I treat people like that, then I don’t have to say anything. They know that I have a spirit inside me that is good. I feel I am a good person. I just take each day as a blessing. “Hey, I woke up this morning. I’m not dead this morning.”
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 22 November 2006; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.