For a year, Cindy Gaillard sat in a back pew at North Broadway United Methodist Church during Sunday services, "shaking like a leaf and crying my eyes out," she recalled.
The 56-year-old Clintonville woman was trying once again to profess her faith, but it was difficult after the experiences she had as a little girl who felt like she was a little boy, and members of her church in California threatened her with what she said amounted to reprogramming.
"That experience was terrifying," Gaillard said, "because it said not only was I not acceptable to God, but there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I left the church. I was only 10. I haven't been back to a church in over 45 years."
Members of North Broadway United Methodist showed Gaillard kindness and made her feel welcome, she said.
"Over time, my heart changed and I was able to heal a little bit," she said.
Gaillard now is spokeswoman for the Reconciling Ministry at the Clintonville church at 48 E. North Broadway, and the lead planner for a special Service of Healing, set for 11 a.m. Sunday, June 11.
The service, open to all, is designed for those who have suffered discrimination, violence or persecution in the name of any religion or as the consequence of any church policy, past or present, church officials said.
"I think it's a great thing," said Barb Schneider, 68, of North Linden. "As a lesbian who grew up at North Broadway, I never had any problem because I was raised in an atmosphere of just love. I realized I was gay, but it was just like, 'God wasn't mad at me; he created me.' "
Over time, Schneider came to realize that was not the typical experience of members of the LGBTQ community at many churches, she said.
"It made me very angry," she said. "The comment that came out of my mouth was, 'I'm the exception, not the rule.' I didn't realize it was happening."
"We believe the full inclusion of LGBTQ people is anchored in truth and love," said the Rev. Marcus Atha, senior pastor at North Broadway United Methodist. "Most churches will welcome LGBTQ people, but not with full inclusion. We here at North Broadway UMC fully affirm all people.
"It's important to acknowledge this full affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ people with a special service to publicly declare that (North Broadway United Methodist) will always be a welcoming church for all people."
"Like many people who identify as LGBTQ, I've been in that space where the church has killed my faith and made me question my existence," said Angie Cox, 38. "The North Broadway community embraced me as I am from the first time I walked through its doors, and they offered indescribable love and healing. Today, I am a seminary student and a candidate for ministry."
Gaillard said the LGBTQ community is "not really big at North Broadway, but we all came back for a reason, and that was we all wanted to make peace with Christianity and make peace with the trauma in our lives. We wanted to signal to us, to other people who might be interested in going back to church ... it's a different narrative now than what we've been taught to believe in the last 30 or 40 years in the Christian church in the United States.
"To stand up in front of a congregation and say this is who I am and not just be accepted ... to be completely affirmed that you are absolutely perfect in the image of God as you are now -- that is profound."