by Kristina Cummings
Connie Waters is on a mission. She intends to get the people of Memphis to come together and have an open conversation about marriage equality.
Waters, who is on the path to become an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, and some of her friends have formed the New Bridge Faith Community, a group that brings people together regardless of beliefs to create a dialogue on many of today’s hotly contested topics, Waters said.
Their first event, "New Bridge Presents Conversation One: Marriage Equality," is meant to bring together people of all faiths and socio-political views for a town hall meeting about same-sex marriage. The event is set to take place on Sunday, July 26, at 9 p.m. at the New Daisy Theater (330 Beale Street in Memphis).
"There are so many topics that polarize our nation today," Waters said. "I hope that by coming together and expressing our beliefs in a relaxed atmosphere we will be able to find a way to live together."
The event will provide a forum where people from both sides of the argument can discuss their feelings in a non-hostile environment. Waters hopes that, with civil interaction between the two sides, a middle ground can be found.
Alex Graham of the improv group Troupe FreakEngine will be performing a comedy and musical skit as ice-breaking entertainment and Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, will be a guest speaker at the event. Jay Bakker is the head of Revolution Church in New York City where he preaches GLBT acceptance.
The event is free but donations of $10 are highly suggested and needed in order to continue the series throughout the year. Waters said the group hopes to fill the 700-seat theater but will consider any size crowd a victory.
Waters hatched the idea for this town meeting while walking down Beale Street in downtown during the "Memphis in May" festivities. She saw preachers along the streets shouting about the evils of gays and lesbians to anyone who would listen. She said she was shocked to hear such hatred coming from the mouths of these "men of God."
"I couldn’t believe that these preachers were saying such hateful and hurtful things to every passerby," Waters recalls. "I graduated with a degree in fine arts and many of my classmates were gay and I have friends who are gay. It seems so wrong to me that my friends are being kept from their right to love. Why are they seen as a threat? Love is love."
Waters has already begun organizing small group meetings in order to build up the New Bridge Community. Larger events like this one will tentatively be held on a quarterly or monthly basis. Conversation Two will be "Freedom of Speech." No date has been set for the second event, but the New Bridge group will update its followers through the twitter account @NewBridgeMphs.