Picture: First Congregational Church of Geneva
Picture: First Congregational Church of Geneva
First Congregational Church of Geneva

Trump. Brexit. Sex scandals. War. Mrs Brown's Boys. Most of the time life isn't very pleasant.

But every now and again, there's a story that just about makes us think everything is going to be ok.

Today's diamond in the rough comes in the form of the First Congregational Church of Geneva, sitting on the corner of 4th and Hamilton Street in downtown Geneva, Illinois, which has an army of counter-protesters and first responders ready to combat any anti-LGBT+ groups who appear at the church's doorstep.

The church has been a vocal supporter of the LGBT+ community and marriage equality for years - indy100 found one report of a photography exhibition celebrating LGBT+ families being hosted at the church back in 2014, a full year before same-sex marriage was legalised by the Supreme Court.

But unfortunately, being such a visible ally of equality is going to incur the ire of those who wish to destroy that way of life. This year has seen more and more homophobic and anti-LGBT+ protests taking place outside the church.

On 31 July, a banner supporting marriage equality was vandalised and the church's rainbow flag was stolen. The church has also been the target of a long-term homophobic letter campaign and regularly has protestors standing outside the church's doors trying to disrupt worship and distribute anti-LGBT+ literature to the congregation.

But by November, enough was enough and it was time for a change. The Chicago Tribune reported that 175 people from Geneva's more progressive churches and organisations, as well as just good-hearted individuals not affiliated with any particular group, turned out in response to the latest anti-gay protest.

Paula Merrington from the church, who organised the counter-protest, told the Tribune at the time: "Last week a group came and stood outside the church and started shouting at the congregates going in. One of the members actually went in and confronted the pastor. The community stood up and said, 'We're not going to accept that here.'"

This is an open community, a very welcoming community, and these groups have a first amendment right to come and protest, but once they start confronting people and shouting their hate speech, Geneva is not going to stand back.

In the wake of this love and support for diversity and inclusiveness, the church set up a mailing list of counter-protestors who wished to be notified every time anti-gay protestors show up. And throughout November and December, that's exactly what has happened.

Like 29 November...

And on 3 December...

And on 11 December...

And anytime there's been anti-LGBT+ protestors on their door.

Once an email blast has been sent out to the church's army of counter-protestors, it can take as little as five minutes for them to start showing up on the church's doorstep.

Speaking after the counter-protest on 11 December, one of the church's congregation, Carolyn Fabian, told the Kane County Chronicle:

I never anticipated this level of support. 

They [the anti-gay activists] were right at the first step and I was trying to figure out how to push them back, and these guys just made a wall and were chanting, 'Love wins,' and they backed off all the way to the grass, and we were able to get people into the church OK. It was fantastic.

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