Wednesday, 21 December 2011

District Coordinator

As the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) grew, at the same time there grew a need for regional governance. To answer this need, 'Districts' were created and each had a coordinator.

While there were only three congregations in Western Canada - Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver - it was considered to be a 'District' due to the distance between those cities.

The man who was District Coordinator when I became Pastor of the Vancouver congregation resigned a year or so later and I was telephoned at home by the Rev. Elder Troy Perry who asked me if I would assume the role. I was surprised by the request but agreed. This meant that I had a supervisory role when it came to the three existing congregations. Also it meant that I was expected to attend meetings of the Board of Elders and District Coordinators and General Conferences as well as trouble shooting when problems arose in the three existing churches.

My first trip out of town in that capacity was to go to Calgary for a weekend visit and in the company of the District Treasurer - another Vancouver man. Our flight from Vancouver to Calgary was on Saturday morning and our Air Canada flight left at the same time as a flight to Montreal. When we arrived in Calgary my friend's luggage arrived at the baggage carousel but mine did not - it had gone to Montreal.

What was so funny was that there was a 'Hoedown' scheduled that evening at which I was expected to be. I was wearing a suit and tie while my casual clothes were in the missing suitcase! Not to worry, the Pastor of the Calgary church - while a woman - was my size so she outfitted me in a pair of her jeans and plaid shirt! I felt silly but I don't think that anybody really noticed.

Following that were a number of trips to Calgary and Edmonton and - when the church was formed there - to Winnipeg over the following few years.

At the same time I began flying with some regularity to Conferences in San Francisco and Los Angeles. On one of the latter trips the conference was moved to a gay resort in Cathedral City - a part of the Palm Springs metropolitan area. For that conference a roomy van/bus had been rented which Troy Perry drove out there from the Los Angeles office. As we got underway I couldn't resist quipping, "I wonder if the Pope drives the Cardinals to meetings too?"

On one of those trips - when I went to proceed through US Customs and Immigration at the Vancouver International Airport - I was denied entry to the US until I was interviewed by a US Immigration Supervisor. I thought that I had encountered some bigotry (my sexual preference had been guessed) but the senior official snorted and passed me on through.

For some meetings in Los Angeles (the Holiday Inn by the Grauman Chinese Theater in Hollywood), I drove down. On one of those trips I had a young lesbian couple traveling with me and they borrowed my car in order to visit relatives while I was at the meetings. On our way back we stopped in San Francisco too so they could enjoy a day or two in that famous city.

During that time Troy Perry set out to film the story of UFMCC. In Vancouver I had met a young man - Greg Coutts - who had a background in filming so I spoke to Troy about him and to Greg about Troy. Troy was coming to Vancouver on one of his visits so it was arranged that I would introduce them to each other at a gay bar (The Shaggy Horse).

This bar had been a restaurant before that incarnation so it had a mezzanine level with tables from where patrons could look down on the main floor. From the entrance off of the street there was a lobby area on the side of which was the coat check.

The main serving bar was down a few steps and, beyond it, was the main seating area and a small dance floor. On weekend nights - when the bar was the busiest - patrons were asked to avoid the crush around the serving bar by going up stairs, walking to the rear, and then down a second staircase to the rear of the dance floor across which one could walk to the main bar and 'cruising area'.

Troy and I were there before Greg arrived and, when he did, he went upstairs while looking down to see if he could spot me. Troy was standing beside me and each spotted the other. I did not have to make introductions as they gravitated to each other automatically.

The film was created and released and then, on a long weekend a year or so later, Greg was asked to house sit for some friends while they were out of town. When they returned they were shocked to find Greg dead - as I, Troy and everybody else was shocked.

Greg's funeral was held at MCC-Vancouver and was well attended. I believe that Troy told me later the result of the autopsy but I do not remember what the cause of death was deemed to be.

There were three other extended trips that I took while I was District Coordinator. I will describe them in the next two blogs.

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