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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



“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

Summer Camp Soap Opera

J.R. McMillan



Young screenwriters shocked by surprise casting at Thurber House

Summer camp is a rite of passage wrapped in revelry, rivalry, and romance — all the makings of a must-see soap opera. But when Thurber House (humorist James Thurber’s former home turned local literary center) rushed to push their summer camps online this year, they feared some of that creative connectivity might be lost among aspiring young writers.

Hoping for a hook, camp counselors Justin Martin and Frankie Diederich decided to challenge campers with a genre they’d never tackled before: writing an original soap opera. Entirely on a whim, Martin took to Twitter to see if anyone happened to have a connection to the industry.

“I genuinely didn’t expect it to go anywhere, I didn’t even tag anyone. But an hour later I had half the cast of Days of Our Lives,” recalled Martin, whose disbelief still lingers. It was a plot twist even campers didn’t see coming. “California’s stay-home order was so uncertain, we never knew when everyone might go back to work. Even when we told writers and their parents the night before the performances, some of them didn’t believe us.

Though daytime television isn’t an obvious obsession for middle school students, nearly every novel of young adult fiction is essentially a soap opera. And Days of Our Lives is set in the fictional Midwest city of Salem — folksy yet sophisticated, and never short on scandal, not unlike Columbus, Ohio. It’s a short stretch that only seems non sequitur.

“Everyone started with a blank page, but by the end of the week, Frankie and I had helped them create a complete screenplay. But the cast was still a shock,” Martin explained. “Kids admire anyone who has made a career out of doing something they love, and these actors and actresses were so enthusiastic, flexible, and generous. They were every bit as into it as the campers.”

It was actress Martha Madison who happened to see a retweet of Martin’s request and matter-of-factly replied, “Can I bring some friends?” She soon roped in more than a dozen of her costars, all equally eager to give a bunch of adolescent screenwriters the performance they deserved despite a pandemic.

“I’m a big believer in fate. It was an easy ask, everyone said yes,” revealed Madison, better known to many as Belle Black. Her character’s parents John and Marlena have been synonymous with Days of Our Lives for decades. “There was so much character development, and they all had love and murder in the plot. They were real soap operas.”

Like many nonprofits struggling to adapt, the shift to online programming has actually expanded the reach of Thurber House. Much like parents working remotely, kids from across Ohio, and from New York to California, also received insightful lessons in craft and collaboration from screenwriter Amanda Beall, whose credits include The Young and the Restless, All My Children, and General Hospital.

“If you’re a creative person, none of that goes away just because you’re stuck at home. You can still share your experience with anyone anywhere,” Madison noted. “I was very impressed with the writing. I’d love to work again with any one of these kids someday.”


For more on Thurber House and upcoming events and programs, visit

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(614) Music Club: Joey Aich




Photo by Zak Kolesar.

Every week, (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist consisting of songs that have inspired their sound, tracks they’re currently jamming out to, guilty pleasures, and favorite Columbus musicians. They also stop by to answer a few burning questions and plug any upcoming performances or releases.

This week’s playlist is brought to you by hip-hop artist Joey Aich. Originally from Woodmere, Ohio, Aich has called Columbus home since 2017. Since then, Aich has observed a city going through growing pains. His thoughts are present in his original work and even more poignant in his June 2020 release, Open Treehouse. The retro, introspective nature of the album shines through on his playlist selection and through his answers, both of which you can find below.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the songs you selected for your playlist and how they may have shaped your music career?

The way I crafted the playlist is into three sections: current, Columbus, and classics. 

The current section (consists of) songs that describe the rollercoaster of emotions I have dealt with amidst the heinous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery due to police brutality and racism. One moment I’m crying in bed listening to Marvin Gaye hoping the violence stops, and the next moment I’m full of rage, and proud, scrolling through social media and seeing peaceful protests along with protests that include people burning cars and looting stores to make sure their voices are heard. Music has helped me during this time and these songs reflect where my head has been. 

The Columbus section includes songs from the Columbus-based artists that are featured on my upcoming album, Open Treehouse. Outside of them being featured on the album, they are incredible friends and amazing talents who push me to be better. Dom Deshawn, Trek Manifest, and Sarob are my “carried by 6 brothers,” and I’m glad we were able to make more music together. 

Classics! These are a few songs that will forever be in rotation for me. Believe it or not, I wrote a book for a class assignment in elementary school, and the title was “Living my Life Like it’s Golden,” because I loved (“Golden” by Jill Scott) when I was a kid. I have a personal attachment to these songs and each artist has had an impact on my genre choice, rapping style, and approach to music. 

During the past few months, how have you been able to stay creatively busy? Did you pick up any new skills or hobbies?

It’s been tough but I’ve enjoyed it. Since I’m in the middle of an album rollout I’ve had to scrap a lot of plans and figure out new ways to make it happen. I told myself I don’t want to come out of quarantine without testing my creative abilities or learning a new skill. Quarantining has stopped a lot of my writing process because I write off of experiences, and being in the house with roommates isn’t that exciting, to be honest. But I’ve found other ways to fuel and channel my creativity. 

I’ve been sipping wine and painting as a way to free my mind and put thoughts to canvas. I was inspired by my friend and Columbus legend, Hakim Callwood, to start painting a while ago, and I challenged myself to take this time to get better and keep myself at peace because I find it to be very therapeutic. 

With a lot of my plans, including music videos, being axed, I’ve been filming music videos on my phone and editing them in iMovie. The process is hard and a bit of a headache, but I’m proud of what I made and my progress with it. I’m glad I stuck with it because now when I work with a videographer I can bring some new ideas to the table. 

Overall, I think I’ve been having a good time with my creative process. I love the challenge of having to work with the situations at hand and make the best of it. 

What do you think separates the Columbus music scene from major industry hot spots like New York and Nashville?

Definitely not the talent. I believe the talent is here, but the infrastructure isn’t as solid as the other big cities. Oftentimes artists here in Columbus and even Ohio as a whole have to go somewhere else and get some type of name recognition before being accepted here in Ohio. I also don’t think that’s technically a bad thing as long as Ohio gets its respect as a place that breeds talent. 

How do you think the Columbus hip-hop scene can carry the momentum it had going into 2020 and turn a positive spin on the latter half of this year?

Continuing to do what we have been doing, but amplified and more polished. Again, I believe the talent is here, but we just have to take the next steps...I subscribe to the “trial and error” method of attempting to do things and learning how to do it better the next time.

To turn a positive spin on the latter half of the year, I think we should continue to be creative and adapt to the new normal because we don’t know how long quarantining will last and what normal looks like after. Maybe we don’t have shows until mid-2021, (so) let’s figure out how to still be effective whether it be live streams or create a novel way to bring the experience to the audience. I like where Columbus hip-hop is headed. I think we have a good group of artists that are right there and at any moment lives can be changed. 

Aich’s latest album, the June 18 release Open Treehouse, is available to listen to on all streaming platforms and available to purchase on Bandcamp here.

Here is where you can find Aich on the Internet:

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Arts & Culture

Rare flower ready to stink up 2020 at the Franklin Park Conservatory




Photo provided by Franklin Park Conservatory.

“Some people wait a lifetime to see this,” said Bruce Harkey, president and CEO of Franklin Park Conservatory. 

What someone will wait a lifetime to see (or smell) varies from person to person. If watching a massive flower bloom and let out a wretched odor is your thing, you better keep a close eye on the Conservatory.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday, the endangered Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will flower in the next week for the first time in the Conservatory’s history. The flower can grow to 10 feet tall and emits a strong odor, resembling rotting flesh. While the “corpse flower” only blooms for a few days, those who go to the FPC to visit it will not soon forget it.

And while it may seem that 2020 could not get any weirder with its masks and murder hornets,  this particular brand of weird is actually kind of cool—and it’s in our own backyard.

Check out the FPC social channels, where you can view the bloom live, or head to the Conservatory to smell it in person, though the required mask may prevent a full whiff of the dreadful stench. But if you dare, you can buy your timed tickets online here.

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