The Church Is Open

Gay by God! This is the message that comes across the pulpit of Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, pastor of Judah Fellowshow Christian Church on the North Side. It’s the idea that people are born being exactly who God intended them to be, including their sexuality. And she not only embodies it, she also whole-heartedly means it. Rev. Leonard is an out and proud AfricanAmerican female who knows “what it is like to stand in the face of opposition and adversity and proclaim what may not be the popular message.” She predicated her theology on inclusive ministry on the fact that there is no shame, no condemnation, and no remorse for being fully yourself and all that God created you to be.

Rev. Leonard, a native of Philadelphia, has been in Pittsburgh since she attended the University of Pittsburgh 16 years ago. Since then, Rev. Leonard has experienced first-hand, the challenges of being out and having an inclusive message in the church. “There are a number of welcoming churches in the Pittsburgh area,” said Rev. Leonard, but what makes Judah special is that we have also experienced the homophobia that exists within the AfricanAmerican religious community,” With Judah Fellowship being a new congregation, it has been a challenge getting the word out that they exist. However Judah has already been a presence with Pittsburgh Pride, Black PRIDE, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, and various other areas of outreach around the city.

Judah Fellowship’s tag line is a different church for a diverse people and that is exactly what they have endeavored to be. Said Rev. Leonard, “Our services are really exciting. One can feel very comforted by the charismatic style of our music and our preaching and the general loving presence of the Holy Spirit. The service consists of various expressions as means of worship in hoping that they can connect with all who come through their doors and that all who attend are engaged intellectually, spiritually, visually, and emotionally so you know that God is for you, God is with you, and there is a safe place for you here.”

Rev. Leonard was most excited to talk about an upcoming event that Judah will be hosting on November 9. The “Healing the Hurt: Overcoming Our Areas of Brokenness” conference will be held at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and will seek to engage the community around the areas that have been of systematic hurt and disconnect in an effort to begin the healing process. This year the event will focus on topics such as HIV/AIDS, the Transgender Community, Healthy Relationships, problematic Bible scriptures, and many other places where healing can begin. The purpose of this event, like the purpose of the Judah Fellowship ministry, is to welcome people to the table of justice and equality in order to begin the healing process to be made whole. “We’re hoping that with time people will begin to know that Judah Fellowship is also a place where you can come feel welcome, included, and at home,” said Rev. Leonard.

Thank you Rev. Leonard for sharing your wisdom and being a beacon of light for those who may have felt ostracized from their own faith communities. We are thankful to have you in our community!

Judah Fellowship Church is located at 120 Parkhurst Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. You can contact them at judahfellowship101@gmail.com or at 412-552-3032.

Pink Pages: The LGBTQ Community Directory of Western Pennsylvania

G. Michael Beigay is a freelance photographer and special education professional for Allegheny Intermediate Unit. His photography has provided educational tools to aid students with cognitive disabilities. He also has worked with a media specialist at his LGBT-friendly church to develop various multi-media productions. He is one of the hosts for G2H2 and he is also the main photographer.