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Gay men’s chorus brings message of inclusion to Mason City church

Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus

Members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus sing at First Congregational Church in Mason City on Sunday.

MASON CITY — The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus brought a message of inclusion and peace to Sunday’s service at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

The chorus, which has more than 100 members, sang a number of selections during the service, including “Prayer of the Children” and an arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

During one song titled “Tree of Peace,” the chorus members sang, “Listen to one another, and then shall all our shackles fall.”

“In this community of faith, this is a very appropriate song,” said the Rev. Chuck Kelsey, pastor at the First Congregational UCC.

During the benediction the chorus members moved from the altar to the aisles of the church, holding hands with each other and those attending the service, who also held hands with each other.

“This experience of the holy isn’t supposed to stop here,” Kelsey said. “We are to take it out and share it with everyone and in the process transform lives.”

The chorus members spent the weekend in Mason City. On Friday night and all day Saturday, they were at First Presbyterian Church for a retreat in preparation for their 35th anniversary concert on April 2 in the Twin Cities.

Some members of First Presbyterian were at the service Sunday at First Congregational UCC.

“Your hospitality has been so wonderful,” said Ben Riggs, director of the chorus, to members of both congregations during the service.

After the service Riggs said the chorus regularly does outreach in the Twin Cities area in places such as churches and schools, and the group is trying to do this more outside the Twin Cities.

Riggs said the chorus, which is a non-profit organization, has a lot of supporters and season ticket holders in Mason City.

He said it was “a treat to be singing in Meredith Willson’s church,” referring to the Mason City native who wrote “The Music Man” and attended First Congregational UCC while growing up.

Some people from Des Moines and other parts of the state came to Mason City for Sunday’s service, according to Kelsey.

Kelsey is part of One North Iowa, the new name for the North Iowa PFLAG group.

At one of the meetings he learned the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus would be having a retreat at First Presbyterian.

Members of the chorus performed at the wedding of Dean Genth and Gary Swenson, members of One North Iowa, in May 2009 at The Music Man Square in Mason City.

Kelsey decided to contact the chorus to see if it would be interested in doing a service at First Congregational UCC while it was in town.

“It seemed like an excellent opportunity,” he said, noting the church is welcoming to all people, including those of every sexual orientation, gender identify and expression.

Kelsey said one person told him after Sunday’s service, “This is what church is supposed to be.”

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