Tag Archive | St. Mark United Methodist Church

2014 In Pictures – My Best

A Little More About Colt 45

Our minister, Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, wrote about Mike today in St. Mark’s weekly newsletter. (See my original post.)

A Death in the Family
This past Sunday I shared with the congregation that one of our brothers had died. His body was discovered on our handicapped ramp where he often slept. There was nothing unusual about last Saturday night for him, as far as we can tell. When he and the others who sleep on the ramp went to sleep they said he seemed the same as ever. Only this time in the morning when everyone got up, he didn’t.

I shared his name incorrectly at 9am because at that time I wasn’t sure who it was who had died. By 11:15 it was clear that it was Red, also known as Mike, though most of us knew him as Colt 45 Man. It was cold Saturday night and Mike got his nickname because he drank one or two Colt 45’s pretty much every day and he had had a few on Saturday. Typically he would come by the handicapped ramp each day and drink one or two and toss the cans in the shrubbery. Often he would sleep on the ramp during the day, or in the doorway of the chapel where the sun is warm in the afternoon. Over the years that we have known him, Deana would invite him to come inside when it was cold. He would always decline. He was never rude or hostile to anyone. He always referred to you as “sir” or “ma’am” and he often wore camo. This made me wonder if he was a veteran but I have not confirmed whether he was or not.

When Torrence, another of our brothers who has been sleeping on the grounds of the church for years, said to me Monday “I hope his family is able to claim him”, I was moved to call the coroner and find out what they could tell me about this. I was told that his full name was Michael Sweeten. He had two brothers and a sister and a son. His sister in law told the coroner her husband had not seen him in years and gave the name of the other brother to see if he wanted to claim Mike’s body. I told the coroner that if no one in his family of origin came forth to claim him, we would claim him and see to his burial.

“The poor you will have with you always” said Jesus. Mike was with us for many years and would accept only the most simple form of hospitality from us – a private place to sleep, the sun on our steps in the afternoon. He wouldn’t come any farther inside the door. Perhaps he felt he was not worthy. We know how that feels. That’s why we will be the ones to claim him if others will not and I will tell Torrence his family came for him.

After the publication of the printed remarks I learned that Mike’s family has claimed his body. He will be buried in Hapeville in the next few days. God is good.

Yours as always,


Pour One Out for Colt 45


St. Mark is one of the few churches along Peachtree Street here in Atlanta that still allows homeless folks to sleep on its steps. Even that statement sounds callous, but it’s a degree better than those churches that have posted “No Loitering” signs out front to keep these needy men and women away from true sanctuary. You know, like Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Fuck you who are poor. Get the hell off my lawn and kiss every inch of my black ass.”

A group of four or five guys regularly sleep on our handicap ramp out front of St. Mark. I jog past on my early Saturday runs and see them out there wrapped up in their blankets and using all their possessions as pillows. It makes me happy and sad. Happy that they feel safe and welcome there in the shadow of our big red front doors, but sad that there are people who have no shelter from the elements, or who, for some reason, choose not to take advantage of the shelter that’s available.

Yesterday, when Beth, our pastor, stood up to take prayer requests, she began by saying she had a very sad announcement. One of those ramp guys, Mike, had passed away in the night out there on that concrete ramp. A man, a child of God created in God’s image, died on a cold Sunday morning on the steps of a god damned church in the United States of America.

Beth said Mike was better known around the church and on the streets as “Colt 45,” because every night he’d drink a can of Colt 45, crush the empty and toss it in the bushes in front of the church. I’ve seen those cans. I might have served Mike some food at Breakfast Club, or poured him a cup of coffee. Chances are good I passed him walking down the street at some point and we probably smiled and said hi. But I can’t remember who he is.

But I remember those cans. Colt 45. The Bull! Those cans were a sign. A sign that a human being had been there and was visible and real and tangible in this world. That human being was a man named Mike.

So tonight I’ll buy a can of Colt 45 and pour it out for Mike. And then I’m going to throw the empty down next to one of those “No Loitering” signs at the church up the street. And they can kiss every inch of my black ass.

Rest in peace, Mike. I’m sorry we couldn’t do better by you.

Updated 11/19/14

More about Mike

Transgender Day of Remembrance


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

     John 1:1-5

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held annually on November 20th. At St. Mark United Methodist Church, we have a worship service of remembrance the Sunday before. We were honored to have Dr. Erin Swenson deliver our sermon this morning. She “broke new ground within mainstream Christian Protestant faith groups on October 22, 1996, when the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, by a vote of 186 to 161, sustained her ordination as a Presbyterian minister. Erin had transitioned from male to female in 1995/96 after 23 years of ordained service, and with the Presbytery’s vote in 1996 she became the first mainstream minister to make a gender transition while remaining in ordained office.”

My struggle wasn’t with relating. My struggle was with being.”

– Erin Swenson

Dr. Swenson spoke about shining our light, no matter who we are. As the scripture above says, God made everything – even you. And God is cool with you and loves you even when you’re afraid and ashamed of who you are. God made you to be EXACTLY who you are. God made you to BE. Let your light shine. Don’t hide it. You are loved. You are beautiful! You are amazing!

But sadly, revealing oneself as a transgender person is dangerous. 200 beautiful trangender men and women, beloved people created in God’s image, were murdered last year. Many, many others committed suicide because they could see no hope for acceptance in this world. But there is hope.

Shine. Shine on. Be brave. Be safe. Find your community of believers and supporters. Be an ally. Use your voice. Do the right thing.

Even one brave child of God can change a piece of the world.

Shine your light…

The darkness WILL NOT overcome it!

In Atlanta, Transgender Day of Remembrance will be observed Thursday, November 20th, at 7 PM, at the Phillip Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA, 30307.

What Does Transgender Mean?

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Remembering the Murdered (Look at how many in just one year.)

Reconciling Ministries Network of the UMC

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

Today’s Service (I’ll post the sermon later this week.)

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Why We Celebrate PRIDE At St. Mark United Methodist Church

By Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, Senior Pastor
St. Mark United Methodist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

During Pride week we at Saint Mark celebrate what for us is a time of great joy and fellowship. We cherish Pride week because this occasion marks the anniversary of momentous decision of our church to step out in love and invite a new group of people to worship Jesus Christ with us in our beautiful one hundred year old sanctuary. A handful of members, most of them older adults, extended their hands of fellowship and love to a community most churches shunned in those days. They handed out flyers to parade marchers that said “Everyone is Welcome at Saint Mark.” They handed out cups of water to thirsty marchers because in those days the parade was in June. They opened their arms to people dying of AIDS when others were afraid to shake their hands.

These members, many of whom are pillars of our church community today, though some have gone on to glory, epitomize what it means to offer Christ to others-not with threats of damnation like many of the Christians who will come to the parade on Sunday to shout Bible verses through bullhorns-but with love and compassion and welcome. This, more than anything, is who we are as a church. We are a church where EVERYONE, bar none, is welcome. This is the church Jesus Christ died to found.

We celebrate Pride because Pride more than any other secular occasion reminds us who we are – not so we can be proud of our own faith, or proud of our accomplishments. Pride reminds us of our best selves. Pride reminds us of our forerunners in faith. We are proud of them because they lived their faith and they inspire us to live ours. Let this Pride inspire you to serve the Lord in humility and love, just as if you were one of those Saint Markans twenty-three years ago who went to the curb and offered God’s most fabulous children a cup of cool water in the name of the Savior.

Jesus calls us to take our own place at the curb and offer Christ to those who pass by. This is a blessed heritage we have here at Saint Mark. So stand proud on Sunday! Let the world see that Christ’s love is available to everyone. Offer everyone you meet the love of Jesus. Do your best to make Him proud of your willingness to love those for whom he died. It is His Pride we are working for brothers and sisters. And that is Pride indeed.



PRIDE Atlanta 2014 at St. Mark UMC


I am so proud to be a member of St. Mark United Methodist Church!

In the 80’s, long before I came around, the congregation had dwindled to a few older folks who had been members for years. Midtown Atlanta had long been a haven for the gay community in the south and St. Mark was there at Peachtree and 5th Street, right in its center.

A gay PRIDE parade had started marching past the front doors of St. Mark down Peachtree St. once a year. The giant Southern Baptist Church across the street hired security every year to protect their campus from the “pink hoard.” (My friend Bill, resident church historian, says maybe they were afraid the gays were going to break in and redecorate.)

As AIDS began to decimate the gay population, the tiny St. Mark congregation decided to reach out and open its doors as a welcoming and accepting sanctuary for worship, comfort, love and solace for a ravaged, battered and feared community of men.

In 1991, the 20th annual PRIDE parade day rolled around and as usual, the Baptists high-tailed it out of town. But the little old ladies of St. Mark proudly set up their table on  the sidewalk in front of the church and handed out water to the parade participants as they marched down Peachtree Street. That became known as “The Miracle on Peachtree Street.”

As the word spread that St. Mark was a different kind of church, the membership began to burgeon and today St. Mark is a thriving United Methodist church, proud of our diversity, but focused on doing Christ’s work in the world through our robust mission programs, ministering to the people of Atlanta and beyond, and fostering thoughtful and open-minded worship and learning.

I invite you to come experience one of our many PRIDE week activities this week. If you’ve never spent time in a house of worship that’s truly accepting of who you are, your mind and heart will be BLOWN! (Particularly the Sunday worship services.)

St. Mark United Methodist Church PRIDE Week Activities 2014

Tuesday, October 8 – Saint Mark hosts the annual Atlanta Pride AIDS Vigil (7p) featuring music performed by the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus

Thursday, October 9Diversity Dinner (6p) & Service (7:30p)

We are delighted to announce that our guest speaker at this year’s Diversity Worship service will be the Rev. Frank Schaefer! Rev. Schaefer stepped in the national spotlight in 2013 when he faced charges in his home United Methodist conference for performing his son’s marriage to his partner. The jury who heard Frank’s case declined to take away his ministerial credentials for doing his son’s wedding, but then tried to bind his future ministry by insisting that he promise not to do another same sex marriage. He refused—not only because he has two other gay children, but because he truly feels for the marginalized LGBTQ community within and without the United Methodist Church.

Frank Schaefer will be signing his book, Defrocked: How a Father’s Act of Love Shook up the United Methodist Church,  directly after the Diversity Worship Service.

Saturday, October 11 – Saint Mark booth in Piedmont Park

Sunday, October 12PRIDE Sunday – Worship at 9a and 11:15a

Barbecue for sale in front of the church from Noon to the parade’s end. (All proceeds go to St. Mark missions.) And we don’t play about our barbecue either. This is the real deal! Pork, chicken or vegan: come get your grub on and watch the parade!

Join us, y’all! We’re not into proselytizing. We meet you where you’re at and love you for it.

Come say hi! I’ll be the girl in the baseball cap and shorts behind the sound board upstairs!

Meet you there!