7. A Church with AIDS


In the 1980s and 1990s, the San Francisco Metropolitan Community Church wrestled with profound questions: What does it mean to minister a gay church when so many in the congregation are dying from AIDS-related complications and grieving the recently dead? How do you have faith during an epidemic? And what does it mean to participate in communion in a community ravaged by a plague?


Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman.

Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui and Devin McGeehan Muchmore. 

Intern: Jayne Swift

Co-created and produced with Lynne Gerber, Siri Colom and Ariana Nedelman from the When We All Get to Heaven podcast.

Music:  "Hickory Shed," "Relay 7," "Maisie Lee," "Tiny Water Glass," "A Path Unwinding," "Dolly and Padre," "Low Slopes," "Purple Light," "Raintop," "Down by the Bank," by Blue Dot Sessions

Special thanks to Reverend Jim Mituslki, Coni Staff, Dennis Edelmen, Marc Minardi, and Patrick Horay for sharing their stories with us. Thank you to the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco and church archivist Lynn Jordan for sharing its archive. A special acknowledgment goes out to the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School for helping to make this episode possible.

One of the voices you heard singing in this episode is Jack Hoggatt-St. John, who died a few weeks ago on January 9, 2018. He wrote the song, “A Church Alive.”

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The historical recordings in this episode are from MCCSF’s archive. In 1987 the congregation started recording worship services, making cassettes of those recordings and bringing them to people who were too sick to come to church. They were preserved by chance by long-time church member Steve Ferrario. Lynne Gerber, along with a team of research assistants, has been digitizing a portion of the collection. Her research into the church’s history is based on these materials.

The interview with Rev. Jim Mitulski was conducted by Siri Colom. Lynne Gerber conducted the interviews with Coni Staff, Dennis Edelman and Marc Minardi. Gillian Frank conducted the interview with Lynne Gerber.

The man who wanted to celebrate the third anniversary of his HIV diagnosis was Paul Francis. Rev. Mitulski made those comments on February 10, 1991; Francis died on January 10, 1993.

Rev. Mitulski asked the question “Can These Bones Live?” in a sermon on November 17, 1991. He was preaching on a biblical passage from the book of Ezekiel, chapter 37. It was one of the texts he retuned to again and again in coming to theological terms with the AIDS crisis.

The prayer for George McGeann came after his death was announced to the congregation on October 20, 1991. That was the same day that he died. The song the congregation sings – George’s favorite song – is an MCCSF adaptation of Andrae Crouch’s “The Blood Will Never Lose it Power.”

Rev. Mitulski’s reflections on positive and negative are from a sermon he delivered on January 12, 1992. He was preaching on the book of Isaiah, chapter 62.

“Come Ye, Disconsolate” is a classic Protestant hymn with lyrics by Thomas More and music by Samuel Webbe senior. In this version Jack Hoggatt-St. John is singing.

“We are the Church Alive” was written by MCC pastors Jack Hoggatt-St. John and David Pelletier. It’s become a staple in some Protestant hymnals and congregations. In this recording, Jack Hoggatt-St. John singing.

“We are the Church Alive, the Church with AIDS” is the title of an article written by MCCSF clergy Jim Mitulski and Kittridge Cherry. It was published in the mainline Protestant magazine Christian Century on January 27, 1988.

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