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“The value of serving others was something that was instilled in me from a very
Travis Wininger:
young age,” recalls Travis. “I remember my mom dropping me off at the local food
bank on the weekends when I was still in elementary school…I am blessed to
have a full time job in the financial industry, but that doesn’t necessarily leave me
Setting Christianity Straight
feeling fulfilled—what I do for Mission Gathering does.” Travis holds the title of
by david vera
“Gathering Producer”—a master of media, sound and lighting. “A ‘gathering’ is
what we call our Sunday morning service. I lead a team of volunteers who make
that gathering happen. When people think of church, they don’t typically think
of the level of technical production Mission Gathering sees every week. From the
rock band, to the stage lights and the multiple video screens, there’s a lot to bring
together all at once and I do my best to make that happen every week. I have a
great team to work with and I could never do it without them.”
Like many of us who are disillusioned by traditional religion, Travis feels that
unity and inclusivity are paths that most religious institutions don’t follow closely
enough. “A lot of Christians have given Christianity a bad name. The term ‘Chris-
tianity’ holds negative connotations for many people. It worries me because a lot
of churches are exhausting a lot of resources on excluding people that could be
used to show love in very practical ways, like feeding and clothing the homeless.
That has huge implications for society as a whole. My hope is that churches like
Mission Gathering can start to change these perceptions through leading by
example.” Upon reviewing the Mission Gathering website, it’s difficult not to be
endeared by the church’s progressive approach. Pictures of past Pride events and
other appearances are proudly posted for all to see—demonstrating a great deal
of bravery when conservatives regularly condemn such displays of support.
“(Laughter) …of course they do. Conservative Christianity is easy and safe; I
understand this because I used to be a conservative Christian. Living out the real
message of grace and love for ALL people we read about in the Bible is a great
deal more difficult. But it’s what is right, and I believe it’s what Mission Gathering
strives to do. Our church has taken some criticism for speaking out against things
“I do my best not to
such as Proposition 8. It’s funny that this has caused Mission Gathering to get a bit
of a reputation as a “gay” church. Mission Gathering has many LGBT members but
judge those more
it’s about more than that. It’s a church for anyone who has ever been an outcast.
I have great respect for the staff of the church because they take the brunt of the
conservative churches,
criticism. Volunteers like myself, we get off pretty easy. I do my best not to judge
those more conservative churches, but I do pray their hearts begin to soften over
but I do pray their hearts
time.” Of all the memories Travis has made with the church, a Pride Parade from
two years ago stands out above the rest.
begin to soften “We were marching and we came to the place where all of the protesters stand.
over time.”
They always tell you before you get to them just to ignore them. Well, we had a
giant banner that said ‘Christianity for All,’ and it was being carried by a straight
couple in our church. As we approached the protesters, I watched as Brad and
Merrilee (our straight couple) smiled at one another and turned the banner to-
ward the protesters. No one from our church was angry, they were full of joy. The
The scars that old wounds leave behind aren’t always visible on the surface. But crowd began to laugh. The police officers around the protestors began to laugh.
because we’re fortunate enough to benefit from such an ample LGBT community, For a split second the protesters were quiet. That, to me, is beautiful. That, to me, is
we often develop armor over these emotional bruises and simply shut out every what will change the world.”
aspect of whatever injured us in the first place. But what if by doing so, we were Travis hopes that Mission Gathering’s goals will reach beyond the walls of Claire
missing out on something incredibly beneficial or inspiring? If you’ve ever been de Lune’s ballroom to show love to the local community in practical ways.
a victim of conservative religion and its discriminative tendencies, then there’s a “We have had great success with ministries such as Street Angels which deliv-
good chance that North Park’s Mission Gathering has some things you’d like to ers backpacks full of essential supplies to homeless teens throughout San Diego.
hear. Since 2006, the core organizers of this all-inclusive sanctuary have strived to Mission Gathering is even starting a peer support group for people going through
provide the area with a better perspective on faith and love. One of this church’s the coming out process—coming out as being gay and coming out as a Christian.
most admirable volunteers is Travis Wininger. This Indiana native may only have It seems there’s never been a better time to start healing those old wounds—and
lived in San Diego for two years, but his attitude and efforts have shown the com- helping the community while you’re at it. Visit missiongathering.com for more
munity the best face that modern Christianity has. information on a better Christianity.
8 RAGE monthly | MARCH 2010
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