BeLonging Space to offer healing, loving spiritual presence at Eugene PRIDE


Love is the central theme driving the work of BeLonging Space in organizing the faith and spirituality zone at the Eugene (Oregon) PRIDE festival on Aug. 12, especially after recent PRIDE events in nearby Douglas County showed the less inclusive side of Christianity.

Napthali Renshaw, organizer of the BeLonging Space (a ministry created by the Crater Lake District Church Extension Society of The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church) is working hard to make sure the faith and spirituality section of the Eugene PRIDE event at Alton Baker Park is about healing and welcome.

“We’re uniting in the spirit of loving our neighbors,” said Renshaw.

Douglas County hosted its first-ever PRIDE festival on July 1, and while organizers were pleased with more than 1,000 people turning out at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg, Oregon, there was a disruptive protest that came from Wellspring Bible Fellowship.

Faith communities that are sincere allies in the LGBTQIA+ community will have information on tables, but there won’t be direct proselytization. Instead, the faith and spirituality zone, which BeLonging Space is sponsoring, will provide different opportunities for meditation, candle lighting, small group conversations, free food, creative art as well as affirming, trained clergy on hand to offer spiritual counseling and lay volunteers offering moral support such as hugs, water or other needs to which festival participants might need tending.

Communion will be offered within the faith and spirituality zone. While it is more of a Christian tradition than ecumenical, Renshaw said it is hopefully a healing ritual.

“A lot of people haven’t been able to (receive communion) because they’ve been pushed out of their faith tradition,” she said.
There will be workshops on grounding, breathing and coaching techniques for self-care, she said.

Renshaw said there will be de-escalation volunteer coordinators on hand to assist, should there be any protestors. BeLonging Space has been hosting de-escalation workshops recently at Trinity UMC in Eugene and at one point after agitators threatened to protest the training event outside of the church, the classes were moved online, she said.

When other congregations in Eugene got wind of the possibly harmful – if not triggering – protest, interest in de-escalating techniques grew and Renshaw said security increased to continue offering these trainings.

There is also a lot of interest from different congregations in participating in Eugene PRIDE. Renshaw said she’s hoping that it’s truly an ecumenical event, with more faiths represented outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

“This is a collaborative space,” Renshaw said. “We come here with our differences, but we are choosing to unite in the name of love.”

To learn more or get involved with BeLonging Space and Eugene PRIDE, contact Renshaw at naphtali.j.renshaw@gmail.com.