COLUMBIA — The Mid-Missouri Pride Fest's interfaith worship service opened with an acoustic rendition of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." The congregation — comprised of about 70 people of all ages, faiths and sexual orientations — crowded into the top floor of the Deja Vu Comedy Club on Sunday afternoon. By the second verse, most were clapping and singing along.
Leaders from more than six different faiths — including Buddhism, Judaism and at least four denominations of Christianity — took turns offering their support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the third annual service. Most of the faith leaders were dressed in jeans and white T-shirts that read "we are all wonderfully made" on the back. Each leader delivered a short message of acceptance and affirmation to the congregation.
Many of the leaders were openly gay themselves. Everyone is "welcome here and everywhere we worship," the Rev. Steven Swope of the Columbia United Church of Christ said.
The interfaith worship service was among a variety of events at the ninth annual Mid-Missouri Pride Fest in downtown Columbia on Sunday. Festival staples such as face-painting and the Gayest Dog Contest kept attendees busy throughout the day. The Downtown Upstage Drag Show will punctuate the festival Sunday night.
More than 40 businesses and organizations rented exhibit booths along Cherry Street and in the Deja Vu parking lot.
On the top floor of Deja Vu, the second hymn of the service, Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," preceded a sermon from the Rev. Jamie Haskins, the director of spiritual life at Westminster College in Fulton. Haskins' oration was the centerpiece of the service. In a manner similar to a beat poet, Haskins delivered tales of change, courage and acceptance, with an emphasis on taking the first step of a journey.
The service concluded with Mumford and Sons' "Sigh No More," but not before vocalist and guitarist Brad Bryan jokingly apologized for the "non-inclusive" use of the word "man" in the lyrics.
"People may put up barriers, but God doesn't," worshiper Vicki Boyd-Kennedy said.
The retired Rev. Dick Blount, 85, was also in attendance. Blount is a known advocate for the gay community and a founder of the Open Door Ministry in Columbia, an open-faith ministry that seeks to raise awareness and support for the LGBT community and their families.
"When we started Open Door 13 years ago, this is what we dreamed about," Blount said.
Supervising editor is Dan Burley.