Church in Lexington welcomes LGBTQ+ community
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – June is celebrated nationwide as Pride month. For many people in the LGBTQ+ community, growing up can be isolating, especially in religious circles. Growing up, Nick Ralston didn’t feel welcomed in the Catholic church but St. Paul’s LGBTQ outreach changed that for him.
“I never heard anything that was negative when it comes to LGBTQ but it was never anything affirming,” says Ralston.
The LGBTQ ministry at St. Paul’s in Lexington got its start four years ago after the Pulse nightclub massacre. Director of the LGBTQ Ministry, J.R. Zerkowski hosted a concert at the church in 2016 one month after the shooting to serve as a safe place for people to remember and mourn. Shortly after the concert, Zerkowski hung a banner outside St. Paul welcoming all LGBTQ+ members and allies into the church.
“It allowed people to walk up those stairs,” Zerkowski says. “I call that my big 3×10 vinyl bandaid because it didn’t stop the hurt, it didn’t heal the wound, but it stopped the bleeding long enough for someone to walk up those stairs and allow the community to heal them.”
The first LGBTQ+ ministry at St.Paul’s had just two attendees with Ralston being one of them. Since that day, Ralston is now one of many people to find love and acceptance within the Catholic church again.
“It’s something I never thought would happen at a Catholic church,” says Ralston. “I never thought one or even two of us getting together would happen in my lifetime so it was very refreshing. It was exciting and it really gave me hope that we could get more and more back to the church and have a bigger community.”
Ralston is now a member of the leadership team for the LGBTQ+ outreach at St. Paul.
“Being in this ministry and being a leader is something I never thought would happen,” Ralston says.
Ralston may have had to grow up quickly and take a step away from the church for a while but he wants his younger self and other members of the LGBTQ+ community who are feeling spiritually lost that there is hope.
“It gets better, life gets easier. You’ll meet people, you’ll be welcomed, you’ll find your place,” Ralston says. “God still loves you, God always loves you just like your family does. You’ll find a home and a community.”