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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  For Leslie Carole Taylor, transitional pastor at Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, the meaning of John 3:16 is abundantly clear. “God loves the whole world,” she said, [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

For Leslie Carole Taylor, transitional pastor at Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, the meaning of John 3:16 is abundantly clear.

“God loves the whole world,” she said,
adding that at Advent UCC, “There’s never been a question that everyone belongs.”

Advent UCC, a primarily African-American congregation on the east side of Columbus, is one of many Columbus faith communities that have openly stated their acceptance and affirmation of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Their goal is not only to accept the LGBT community among their members, but also to represent them actively in worship and ministry.

While some denominations have a history of working toward equality, other denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, remain divided over the issue of homosexuality, making the “coming out” of individual churches a complicated undertaking.

In 1994, King Avenue United Methodist Church was an urban church in decline in the middle of Victorian Village, a neighborhood transitioning from to student housing to LGBT-friendly. Grayson Atha, King Avenue’s senior pastor at the time, announced to the church that an LGBT Bible study was being held at a neighboring church.

“That was the verbal breakthrough,” said John Keeny, King Avenue’s current senior pastor.

Shortly afterwards, the child of a same-sex couple was baptized in church, upsetting several members and leading to a dialogue about the church’s position on homosexuality. At the end of six months, after consulting with numerous experts, a task force recommended that King Avenue begin its journey to full inclusivity, which it achieved by 1999.

It had also doubled its membership. In the winter of 2012, King Avenue expanded its inclusive mission by opening Stone Village Church in the Short North.

King Avenue recognized that its journey would meet with some resistance, but even for liberal religious movements such as Unitarian Universalism, which has traditionally promoted intellectual freedom and an individual’s search for truth, the steps toward equality were not necessarily easier.

“Culture is conservative,” said Mark Belletini, senior minister at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Clintonville. “When I first came into the movement, there were hardly any women in the ministry, even though we’d been ordaining them for years.”

Belletini said that, just like LGBT individuals striving to represent themselves within Unitarian Universalism, the church had to undergo the same transition as other ministries working toward inclusion. First Unitarian held awareness exercises, meetings, and potlucks as part of the process of understanding. As a gay minister, Belletini preached at other churches as an example.

“We had to look at our principals of equality and say, ‘What does that look like in the real world?’” he said.

Now, First Unitarian has become so integrated in its ministry that a separate LGBT group was dissolved for its redundancy. As a result of the transition, the church itself is “much more vital and alive,” said Belletini.

As Columbus’s acceptance of the LGBT community has grown, finding ways to serve its spiritual needs has become a more natural process.

When she began her position as associate rabbi for community engagement at Temple Israel in April of 2013, Sharon Mars was given the task of finding under–\served persons in her congregation. As the needs of LGBT members were brought to her attention, she began KESHET Israel, a Jewish LGBT and allies networking group.

Mars is emphatic about acceptance and that acceptance of difference not be polarizing.

“I want every person walking into Temple Israel to feel welcome. Every human being is uniquely created in God’s image,” she said. “But at the same time, you’re just like everyone else.”

 

Overcoming Conflict with Context

Certainly, inclusive faith communities deal with issues of scriptural interpretation, but leaders in more inclusive churches have realized the importance of context and culture.

“That was then. This is now,” said Mars. “This is about each person mattering and being part of the tradition. There is something beautiful about being part of an ancient religion, community, and people.”

What is clear is the mutual importance the LGBT communities and their houses of worship play in each other’s lives. In a society where small groups such at the Westboro Baptist Church can command significant attention, Belletini believes that it’s important to have “spiritual shelters” that remind worshippers they are individually worthwhile.

The openness of inclusive houses of worship goes beyond the acceptance of the LGBT community. Many people who have had negative religious experiences are more willing to explore the possibilities of faith in an accepting environment.

“We have seekers and doubters who come here,” said Keeny. “There isn’t an energy devoted to suppressing who we are.”

Historically, believers have found that embracing the unusual, such as the Jewish belief in one God or the early Christian practice of risking themselves to care for the outcast sick, has given a depth and authenticity to their faith.

Now, the belief that God accepts all may be just as transformative.

“Faith takes on a whole new sheen in light of that acceptance,” said Mars. •

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Arts & Culture

Gallery Space: Danielle Deley

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In the ‘60s, the clash of mass culture and fine art exploded. Led by New York-based artist Andy Warhol, whose silkscreen paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe were instantly iconicized, the vibrant basis of his works became known as pop art. While Warhol was one of the founding pop art leaders, the lesser-recognized Roy Lichtenstein was a Fine Arts graduate from The Ohio State University in 1949 and was notable for his comic-like expressionism.

Subtly following Lichtenstein’s influential trajectory is visual artist Danielle Deley, who’s currently prepping for her Skylab show Jubilee. Her use of color is rich in tone, and her subjects are easily recognizable, with cultural nods to Frank Ocean, Barbara Streisand and the late David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I want Jubilee to feel like you’re walking back into the height of the pop art era. I might have a more muted color palette than Lichtenstein, but I want it to make a comment about traditional fine art,” Deley said. “Each of the 2D pieces are based off of very popular sculptures in Greek and Renaissance art. Each 3D piece is taken from paintings from that same time period.”

Originally from Youngstown, Deley graduated from CCAD in 2011 with a BFA in graphic design and advertising. Spending a semester in England while she attended CCAD, Deley regularly kept in contact with her grade school art teachers, who provided encouragement and foundational skills. Their guidance led her into becoming co-president of the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts, and even illustrating Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on a cover of Chicago Reader in April. Through Deley’s intricate, pastel design, Lightfoot is recreated into a queen of spades form.

“Sue Kwong, the creative lead for the Chicago Reader, reached out, had this awesome cover idea and wanted me to bring her vision to life,” Deley said about the collaboration. “She found me on this forum called Women Who Draw, something I submitted to six years ago. They make a space for female artists and illustrators to find other female artists and illustrators. [Illustrating the cover] probably took eight hours. It was my first cover illustration for a big publication so I wanted to get it right.”

Often visiting Gateway Film Center to see how films are composed, Deley actively studies the meticulous craft of cinematography, along with going to intimate gallery spaces to align with the art community. After graduating from CCAD, Deley would only create on her computer, but decided to transition her work into watercoloring. “[Watercoloring] then moved into gouache, wood carving, and finally painting with acrylics. My style started to take shape just from doing these small projects that popped into my head,” she said. “My first one was The Young and the Restless illustration that I have on my website and I just couldn’t stop. The style stayed the same but I would push myself with composition, size, and color.”

Currently contracting as a designer at independent digital design Studio Freight, Deley also co-created the “mind reading” board game Medium, which Two Dollar Radio attendees had the chance to celebrate and play after its release. In August, Delay also illustrated children’s (and dog lovers) book Good Night, Buckeye with author Dan Wurth, with all proceeds from the book benefitting Canine Companions for Independence. With Deley’s hectic creative schedule, Jubilee could have become an afterthought, but she assures (614) that the show’s creation was intentional, with retrospective, familial ties.

“I came up [with] the name [of Jubilee] for two reasons. One, Jubilee came from the idea of celebrating. I thought it was time to celebrate this style I’ve been creating,” she said. “And two, it’s an homage to my grandparents. My Baba would always make this rich and delicious cookies called ‘jubilees’. They were always doing a craft with me or when I would come visit they were creating something.”

With appreciation for local art venues such as 934 Gallery, No Place Gallery and Roy G Biv, Deley avidly wanted for Jubilee to be placed in Skylab, ready to share her “post-pop art” genre with Columbus. “Skylab was the perfect space to propose this show. Its view of art has always been contemporary and experimental, and that’s how I view everything I make,” she said. “Contemporary art for me is about making things weird and beautiful at the same time and that’s how I hope people perceive Jubilee.

Jubilee opens Jan. 1, 2020 at Skylab Gallery, located at 57 E Gay St., 5th floor.
Visit danielledeley.com or @danielle_deley on Instagram for more information.

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Arts & Culture

Thinking Big: The Amazing Giants bring circus arts to events across town

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If you have been to a local festival, parade, or corporate event where you’ve seen stilt walkers, fire-eaters, hula-hoopers or lyra artists, there’s a good chance you’ve been in the presence of an Amazing Giant. Founded in 2011 by Jessica Minshall, The Amazing Giants was born out of one woman’s love of stilt walking and her friends’ desire to learn the skill. Now a new challenge is looming for the group—a business expansion to Hawaii.

Working in the service industry, Minshall saw a need in Columbus for a different type of entertainment. She taught herself how to walk on stilts for a festival gig out of state. This new hobby intrigued a group of her friends, and they decided to learn, too. From there, The Amazing Giants were born. “My partner and I bought a lot of stilts and just taught people how to do it,” she said. “We all found each other.”

What began as a few friends learning a new skill and having fun together practicing it evolved into a booming business with 40 employees and contract workers, including magicians, face painters and more. They are hired for events to do everything from wearing full bodysuits covered in tiny mirrors and dancing to wearing and serving champagne from large metal skirts to dazzle a crowd.

“We have evolved with different equipment, too,” Minshall said. The Amazing Giants owns the only sway pole in the Midwest. It allows performers to create a large- scale spectacle with an extreme cirque-style pole acrobatic act without the need for a permanent installation. With hundreds of costumes, 20 pairs of stilts, and entertainment offerings of just about every circus art imaginable, The Amazing Giants truly seek to astound.

Having had great success in the Columbus market, Minshall decided to grow her business, and recently brought The Amazing Giants to Honolulu. “I had family out here that I would visit and realized they don’t have anyone doing what we do. There’s not really a group or team of stilt walkers working together,” she said. So Minshall bought six pairs of stilts, and hosts open gyms where interested performers can show off their skills and possibly train on stilts. “They don’t need to send me a resume, necessarily,” she said. “It’s about personality and talent.”

Importantly, Amazing Giants must have an abundance of confidence without an overabundance of ego. “I tell people we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As an entertainer you have to get over your shyness and put yourself out there.” The ability to work as a collaborative team player is also key, she said. “Our team often works in tight quarters, and whether or not it is well-received, you have to put on the show as best you can.”

Although Minshall is keeping the headquarters in Columbus, now headed by Chief of Operations Olivia Ranier, she says she is excited about the expansion and her recent move to Honolulu. “It reminds me a lot of Columbus because it has that small-town, big-city feel with a similar {\(metropolitan area) population of around one million people,” Minshall said. And the environment is ripe for her type of business. “In Honolulu, we have events year-round; in Columbus our business slows down after New Year’s Eve,” she said. “There is also a lot more tourism and a convention center that brings in a ton of people.”

Although her business has expanded, don’t for a second go thinking that Minshall is going to forget where she comes from. “A lot of times people ask me where I am from and they say, ‘Wow, I’ve been hearing a lot about Ohio lately.’ I have nothing but good things to say about Columbus and what kind of platform it’s given me. It’s a massive city with a thriving arts and entertainment culture—and it’s extremely underrated. I will be Columbus-promoting forever.”

For more information visit theamazinggiants.com.

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Big Macs and Bowl Games: Enter McDonalds sweepstakes for college football getaway

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Now that Ohio State has secured its bid to play in the 2019 College Football Playoffs, every fan across Columbus is vying for tickets to the Bowl Game. Lucky for you, McDonald’s has the answer.

Today, McDonald’s launches their Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes in partnership with Ohio State Athletics, where one lucky winner will win a trip for two to the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Game on Saturday, Dec. 28, including prime tickets to the game, transportation to and from, plus hotel and travel accommodations.

Fans can enter the Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes by purchasing a Quarter Pounder or Quarter Pounder with cheese from any McDonald’s in the greater Columbus area, either in restaurants or through their favorite delivery service. With each order, customers will receive a golden ticket with entry details, leading them to the sweepstakes website.

And the best part is for every submission placed, McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Columbus will donate $1 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, helping them meet their annual fundraising goal.

“For McDonald’s, and for those of us as local business owners, it’s about more than selling burgers. It’s about creating a lasting impact in our community,” said Mike Telich, Columbus McDonald’s Owner/Operator in a statement. “Supporting RMHC is more than just a donation, its ensuring families with ill or injured children get the emotional and physical support they need, as well an alternative to the financial burden of staying at a hotel and going out for meals."

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