by David Shuler
MARYVILLE – The brick house on Wildwood Road in Maryville, Tenn., looks like any other house in the beautiful semi-rural setting that is typical of Blount County – except three times each week, the driveway and entire front yard are bursting at the seams, full of cars bringing GLBT people and their friends and family to the Whosever Fellowship Church.
On a rainy Thursday evening, Pastor Pam Wright along with her partner June Ward and Greggory Phenicia, church member, sat down to explain how their church came into being. Founded on Dec. 31, 2004 , Whosoever Fellowship Church now boasts about 40 members from the surrounding area. Some members come from as far away as Gatlinburg and Knoxville to attend this little church that is held in Wright’s garage.
Pastor Wright and her partner, June, felt led by God to begin ministry. They spent a lot of time questioning the location and made plans for beginning the ministry. June, newly out, wanted to experience GLBT life in a large city, so Pastor Wright took her to Atlanta , Ga. , to participate in Atlanta ’s Pride.
While spending time with some friends, they joined the New Covenant Church , a GLBT accepting church.
Pastor Wright recalled, “The pastor of New Covenant pointed her out and said ‘I have a message from God; do you want to hear it?’ I said ‘yes.’ ‘God said, you’re going to see this thing through, go a 360 and not miss him.’”
Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Atlanta . After more than a year spent living in Atlanta , Wright and Ward felt it was time to return to East Tennessee to begin their own ministry.
“Finding a place wasn’t easy, but after much searching we found what we were looking for in Maryville on Wildwood Road ,” Wright said.
The two-story house was perfect. The upper level serves as a home office while the ground level serves as a sanctuary and fellowship area.
Pastor Wright had a time convincing the landlords that they weren’t criminals and weirdoes. She said that they would come and make frequent checks on the house. Finally they saw that these determined women were sincere in their efforts to minister to the people of the area. Five or six people attended the first church service. Within two weeks the numbers had doubled, and attendance has continued to grow since then.
“The first person that we helped lead to the Lord was a straight woman,” June said.
“The Lord is working in great and mighty ways and we’ve seen his hand move because of all the prayers that are being prayed,” Pastor Wright said.
The warmth and love emanating from Whosoever Fellowship is exciting and accepting. It is virtually contagious. Their meetings buzz with excitement and love.
Whosoever Fellowship Church goals include a 24-hour hotline, domestic violence training to equip members to deal with issues facing gay and lesbian couples, and a safe house where those in need can find a haven until they can transition to more independent living quarters, as well as life skills training for those who seek refuge.
Whosoever Fellowship Church has three services: Sunday morning service at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday night Bible study at 7:00 p.m. and Friday night praise and worship.