During a time when gay people were shunned in Long Beach and across the nation, there was one place they could go for support and love — Christ Chapel.
The non-denominational that serves predominately gay and lesbian residents is celebrating 30 years of service and advocacy in the community with a gala set for Dec. 3 at the Whaley Park Community Center, located at 5620 Atherton St.
“We plan on sharing some nostalgia and looking back on our history,” said church board member Steve Stark. “We’ll also host dinner and dancing, which will be a nice celebration of our serving the community.”
In the 1980s, when many gay people were dying of AIDS, Christ Chapel stepped in to form an AIDS food store and support system to help victims of the disease find spiritual guidance and assistance.
To this day, Christ Chapel serves 70 to 80 people twice a month, and provides them with food and essentials, such as toiletries, to help get them by.
“Back then, in the 1980s, being gay and being a Christian was almost an oxymoron,” Stark said. “Now, we are bringing it all together. When people were facing death, the church really stepped up and helped out… That was in 1984, and today, the AIDS food store is located in the church, and we do it every other week.”
Founded in 1981 by Pastor Michael Cole, the church originated in his living room, and offered a place for gay and lesbian residents to worship and find help, during a time when mainstream churches shut them out, according to Stark.
Cole’s loving spirit and ability to make others feel welcomed and comfortable caused the church to grow rapidly.
“No one in Long Beach had started something like this,” Stark added. “He was just a loving man, who made everyone feel very comfortable about God and coming together. We had AIDS killing people at the same time — we were all dying and needed the comfort of Christ, and Michael was there when we needed Christian comfort the most.”
As the church outgrew Cole’s living room, he established its current location at 3935 E. 10th St. Unfortunately, Cole passed away in 2005 of a heart attack, but his legacy of giving back to those in need has continued to flourish, Stark said.
The church members also help to feed the homeless, by bringing them breakfast each Tuesday morning.
The 30th anniversary gala will start at 6 p.m. for a reception and social hour, followed by dinner and dancing at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 each, and may be purchased by calling 438-5303. Reservations need to be made by Wednesday, Nov. 30.
For more information about Christ Chapel Church, visit www.christchapellongbeach.org.