APRIL 29, 2005
He built a church where his flock could
find a Tresh Start'
Pastor Jeffrey Campbell
said he wanted his
congregation to be
By DAWN ROME
Every Sunday afternoon, the Houston
GLBT Community Center is filled with
the sound of rejoicing, singing and
music. Wandering through the corridors,
following the joyful sound, visitors find a
room crowded with a congregation—predominantly gay men—who have come
there to worship.
Leading the gathering is Pastor
Jeffrey Campbell, a man whose goal has
been to provide a place where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals can find reconciliation between their
sexuality and their spirituality.
Born and raised in Cuero, Campbell
says he was brought up in a missionary Baptist family that was always
active in the church. When he entered
into Texas State University to study
accounting, he worked as a musician
in the campus choir.
Campbell's involvement with ministry-
work almost seemed inevitable. He
already knew that he had the ability to
connect with people. While running for
student body vice president in high
school, he had discovered that he had an
amazing gift for public speaking.
ft MORE INFO
Fresh Start Church
Sunday, May 1
11 a.m. service with New Covenant Church
I p.m. on other Sundays
Houston GLBT Community Center
3400 Montrose Blvd., Suite 227
7 p.m. Wednesday
Houston Splash Worship Experience
II a.m. Sunday, May 8
3000 North Loop 610 West
When asked to describe what drew
him into ministry work, Campbell smiles
and says that it's difficult to explain in a
way that can be put down on paper.
"It's a call," he explains. "It was something within me as I grew in my relationship with God. There was an urging or a
moving in my spirit that said to me that
there was more that God wanted from
me: there was more that God had given
me to do for him."
After starting work on a Masters of
Divinity at the Houston Graduate School
of Theology, Campbell started holding
weekly Bible studies in his home. In
January of 2003, the small congregation
began sharing space with a church in
southwest Houston, where they had a
worship service every Saturday night.
With that, Fresh Start Church was born.
Although its services were open to
everyone. Fresh Start was not initially an
open and gay-affirming church,
In March of 2004. a member of the congregation who was involved with organizing Houston Splash, the annual black
gay pride celebration in Galveston,
approached Campbell about signing on as
the "Splash Pastor" and holding a worship service at the event.
"I was somewhat apprehensive,
because at that time, there were still
members of the church who were not
aware of my sexual orientation. I
always preached about unconditional
love, but 1 hadn't completely come out of
the closet," whispers Campbell, grinning sheepishly.
Although Campbell's Sunday "Worship
Experience" at Houston Splash was met
with some resistance from within the gay
community, its reception was overwhelmingly positive. The minority that spoke out
against the event did not feel that religion
belonged at the Splash celebration.
Campbell said that some people told
him that they did not put the religious
aspect of their lives and their sexuality
together, and that Splash was not the
place to be holding a church service.
For others, the experience was an
encouraging one. Campbell looked
around the room to see "individuals
who were just excited to be in a place
where if they were with their partner,
they could hold their partner's hand
and worship God, all at the same time."
Others felt relieved to be able to come to
Campbell with personal issues such as
conflict in their relationships or living
with HIV or AIDS.
As pastor of Fresh Start Church, Jeffrey Coleman
knew he wanted his congregation to be a radically
Fresh Start Church is among the sponsors of a
showing of the film comdey, 'Punks.'
ft JEFFREY COLEMAN
Education: BBA in accounting from Texas
Occupation: Pastor/HIV activist
Marital status: Single
Hobbies: Traveling and spending time with
good friends/good people
Radically inclusive fellowship
After that experience, Campbell knew
that he had found his calling, and Fresh
Start Church underwent a transformation. From then on, his church was
known as "an affirming and radically
inclusive Christian fellowship." That is
to say, affirming to people of gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender orientation
and radically inclusive of all people.
In August of 2004, Fresh Start held its
first weekly Bible study on "Scripture
and Sexuality" at the Houston GLBT
community center. Later that year,
Campbell began holding Sunday worship
services at the community center, as well.
Since then, the church has continued
to grow. At this time, the congregation is
up to about thirty-two members.
Personally, Campbell has continued
to grow, as well. He is an advocate for
HIV/AIDS education and prevention,
and is currently working with the
African American Gay and Lesbian
Alliance to expand awareness about this
Campbell has also been planning
another Fresh Start program for Houston
Fresh Start, Lambda Legal and
Human Rights Campaign Houston will
host a screening of Patrik-Ian Polk's comedy, "Punks," on Wednesday. The event
will begin at 7 p.m. at Bartini on
On Sunday, May 8th, Campbell will
hold his second Houston Splash
"Worship Experience" at the
Brookhollow Sheraton. The event will
feature Fresh Start's choir, the
Revolution singers, led by music coordinator Leo Radford. Bishop Dr. Yvette
Flunder, pastor of the City of Refuge
Church in San Francisco, will be the
Campbell hopes all those who have felt
unwelcome at other churches will open
their hearts and attend. He said he
believes that it is only through willingness to participate, study, and pray that
the reconciliation between spirituality
and sexuality can begin.