In 1968, Troy Perry was stunned when his lover Benny announced that their relationship was over. In his desperation and depression Perry attempted suicide. Following the failed suicide attempt, Perry experienced a renewed sense of spirituality. He began to pray again. And he was perplexed by the words of a stranger who prophesied, “God has a ministry for you. You are going to pastor a church.” At that time, that was far from Troy Perry’s mind. He picks up the story by sharing events that took place after the attempted suicide.
I prayed and I could feel God’s presence. God was the source of power, authority, warmth and understanding. God was the force of good, of energy, of creative positive happenings. After my suicide attempt, I would hit the gay spots once in a while. Usually I went with my friend and roommate, Willie Smith, on his nights off.
I developed a friendship with a young man by the name of Carlos. We used to talk about our basic beliefs, but Carlos would never even let me make any mention of religious beliefs. He had mentioned that he had belonged to a church, but, he agreed with Willie Smith, for him it was not the answer.
Then Carlos got arrested by the police.
For what? …Well, just for buying beer in a gay bar. He had done absolutely nothing else. It was the way the police used to harass the gay community. He was there with me, and with a couple of friends of ours. It was so unjust.
Here’s what happened:
Carlos bought a couple of beers and came back to our table, and started to sit down. A police officer in plain clothes walked up to him, flashed a badge, and said, “Come outside with me!”
They took Carlos outside, along with another friend of ours, Bill. Both men were charged with lewd conduct, handcuffed, frisked, and hauled off to jail.
We moved fast.
Some of us went right down to the jail. Now this was eleven o’clock at night. I knew Carlos had done nothing wrong. He hadn’t broken any law, and I am convinced of that to this day. But it took me until 5:30 AM to get Carlos released. It was all due to delaying tactics by the police. The booking procedure, the mug shots, the fingerprinting, just took hours. It was part of the harassment that took place far too often against the gay community in those days.
When I finally saw Carlos, I could tell he was more shaken up that I was. And I was really upset.
I took Carlos home with me. I wanted him to get cleaned up, pulled together, and have something to eat. Then we’d plan what we were going to do.
Carlos said, “You know something? I’ve never been arrested before for anything in my life. Never! And I’m 26 years old now. The police kept telling me they are going to call my employer and tell him I’m gay. I’ll probably lose my job. You know, Troy, I’ve learned one thing from this experience: People don’t really care. Nobody likes a queer.”
I tried to be helpful. “Well, Carlos, even if people don’t, I’m still convinced that God cares about you.”
Carlos just laughed bitterly. “Come on, Troy. God doesn’t care about me.”
With that, he turned and left. And when he left, I felt the weight of his disaster upon me.
I had made my way back to God enough to know that I could talk to God. So I knelt down and said, “All right God, if it’s Your will; if You want me to see a church started as an outreach into our community, You just let me know when.” And I heard a still small voice within me say,
My course was set! I had to fight to keep it from occupying all of my thoughts while I was at work. I knew that the mission was coming into focus. God wanted me to start a new church that would reach into the gay community, but that would include anyone and everyone who believed in the true spirit of God’s love, peace, and forgiveness.
My learning experience sped up. The Lord was really getting me ready. I knew that the word “church” would be in the title. In my free time, I used to think and pray about what kind of church God wanted me to found. I would sit in that little office in back of the yardage department at Sears and pray and think and dream. I knew God wanted a church where God could move. I think that’s why “church” was always in the title. Then I would ask the Lord if it was to be really an outreach into the gay community. So the word “community” got into the title. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Community meant a feeling of comradeship, a small area, a place where you knew everybody. So, it would be a community church. We would also serve a large community; we would serve all of the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles is a large urban area, so the word “metropolitan” finally came to mind, and it stuck.
Then I had to worry about how I was going to reach the gay community. There’s always the grapevine, but church services and religion aren’t usually part of that.
During this time of planning and preparing, I was such a happy individual. Willie Smith saw me walking around the house humming, smiling, and full of energy. He nailed me about it one day.
He said, “What’s eating on you?
So, I leveled with him. I said, “Well, Willie I’m sure that God wants me to start a new church.”
Willie just collapsed and said, “Oh, my God, I thought you were over all that silliness.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Willie. This is a church for us, it will serve the homosexuals, the gay community.”
Well, Willie thought that was crazy. He said, “You mean you really are serious about this religious stuff?”
I assured him that I was. I said, “I know, Willie, that it’s the thing to do. I’ve got to try and see if I can’t bring a message, God’s message, to all the gay people.”
What Willie wanted to know was this: “How are you going to organize a bunch of queens, and get them to follow any religion, or any person, or do anything together? You know how bitchy we are. We always act individually. Nobody has ever organized the gay community into anything and accomplished anything. It’s ridiculous.”
I told Willie I would go ahead anyway. “And,” I added, “we’ll do it right here.”
Willie was horrified.
He said, “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m already too much for Huntington Park. And you’re going to have all those faggots from Hollywood down here running in and out of our house to attend church services? The neighborhood just can’t take the strain!”
He just looked at me again, and said, “Okay. If you’re going to do it, go ahead. But don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Helping queens get religion isn’t anybody’s bag.”
Then he added, “But if it does work…count me in.”
So I asked Lee Glaze, owner of The Patch gay bar, about it. Lee thought it would be just great. I asked him what he thought was the best way to reach the gay community. He thought it over.
While he was thinking, I said, “I’m going to advertise it in The Advocate, I guess. What do you think about it?”
He said, “That’s a great idea. As a matter of fact, it happens that the editor of The Advocate and his lover are here in The Patch tonight. Would you like to meet them?”
I was eager to, so I went into Lee’s side office near the bar. He brought in Dick and Bill, and made the introductions. We started talking and I explained my plans. They were skeptical about what I was trying to do. Was this some kind of business venture? Just what was I up to? They weren’t sure that they wanted to sell me any advertising at all. So I really gave them my pitch. And when we finished, they not only took the ad, they gave me a good rate on it. They also told me that they might, just might, even attend a service at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), if it ever got started.
Now at that time, The Advocate was published only once a month. I decided I would advertise in the October issue which would hit the street the last week of September. So, I set the date for my first service. It was October 6, 1968. I had about two weeks between the publication of the first ad and the first worship service.
Just about ten days before the first service, my mother came down to see me. She and her husband were separating, and she was going to go back home to Florida for a vacation. She knew of my suicide attempt, of course, and she kept much closer contact with me. I visited her as frequently as I could.
Again, I’m going to have her tell, in her own words; something of the way she saw it.
“One day, I visited with Troy at his home in Huntington Park. He seemed kind of distracted and I was afraid that he was losing interest in his faith, in any kind of church or religion. And we were talking. I said to him, ‘Troy, have you ever thought about starting a church?’ Well, that stunned him. I guess I must have really read his mind. But we were talking, and he told me that a friend of his had been arrested — busted as they call it — on some kind of homosexual charge or other.
And he told how much that boy needed help. And I said to Troy, ‘Well, haven’t you ever thought about starting a church for homosexuals?’ Well, a change came over him, and he looked at me and that was it. He said that that was just what he had been praying about and that was what he was going to do. He looked so fierce and intent. He said that it had been uppermost in his mind for several weeks.”
So I began to share my dream for the church with the gays and lesbians. They almost all had the same reaction that Willie Smith had had. Some told me to forget it. We had gone through generations, even centuries, of that awful conviction that if you were a homosexual you could not be a child of God; you could not be a Christian.
I knew I was really shoveling sand against the tide to get started.