On a sunny Sunday morning in Rancho Peñasquitos, Mike Franz was the first of his family to wake up. He dressed his two sons, Gabriel, 7, and Lazarus, 4, in khaki pants, long-sleeve shirts, and brown dress shoes for church. His husband, Phil Sanchez, woke up last. Phil sleeps in on Sundays, since he works long hours during the week.
As the family had an eclectic breakfast, worship music played. Gabriel and Lazarus had toasted bagels with peanut butter and bananas, Franz had oatmeal and egg whites, while Sanchez chose rice and eggs. Gabriel shared excitedly that his dad always puts ketchup on his eggs as Sanchez blushed and confirmed it to be true. After the family finished up eating, they helped Gabriel work on a Valentine’s Day box for his school before they piled in their champagne-colored Jeep to make it on time to the 11 o’clock service at Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego in BayPark.
The Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego, started in 1970, and now has a congregation of more than 250 active members. Rev. Troy Perry formed the first Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968. The church is a member of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a growing worldwide denomination of hundreds of congregations that are open to all people, while providing a particular ministry to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The current senior pastor of MCC San Diego is Dan Koeshall. The church was founded as an inclusive, affirming, Christ-centered community of faith, which is what was really appealing to Franz.
“Church is important to our family simply because God is so important to us,” said Franz.
Franz had a bad experience with a church prior to coming to MCC, when a pastor very nicely explained that Franz could never become a member because he and Sanchez were in the middle of an adoption. The pastor told Franz everyone is broken in some way, and for him it was the sexual orientation he had chosen. Sanchez was not present when this was said but when he found out, they decided to never go back. The search for a new church began, leading them to MCC.
Franz, Sanchez and their sons have been attending MCC for about three years now and rarely miss a Sunday.
“We immediately felt right at home and the love and non judgment we felt was overwhelming… to the point of some tears shed,” said Franz.
The couple enjoys helping with ministries such as ushering, helping with children’s programs and raising money for the AIDS Walk and Run San Diego.
Many aspects of worship at MCC are familiar to chapel at PLNU, from upbeat singing, contemporary music, prayer, reading of scripture and an open communion.
“The good news of God’s inclusive love is shown through allowing people of all faith and backgrounds to participate in communion,” said Koeshall.
The church offers two Sunday morning worship times of 9 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. At the 11:00 a.m. service, there is an ASL interpreter and Sunday school is provided for children. Music is interweaved throughout the service, mixing cotemporary music with worship music and hymns.
As worship starts at the later service, Lazarus is in the nursery with Gabriel as other children sit with their families and sing along with the congregation. The front of the sanctuary is filled with flowers, colorful stained-glass windows are on the sides of the room, and a wooden cross is hung in the front and center of the sanctuary.
Koeshall starts the service by drawing attention to 1 Corinthians 2:9 which says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love God.”
This verse is hung on a banner in the church as a reminder that God has a place for everyone who has a place for Him in his or her heart.
As Gabriel squirms in his seat next to his dads, he plays with a braided bracelet he made until he is dismissed for Sunday school along with the other children. Gabriel has attended MCC since he was 3 years old. Lazarus has just started going, since Franz and Sanchez adopted him ten months ago. Gabriel feels very comfortable at MCC. He even got up on stage last year to tell the congregation that Christmas means it’s “Jesus’ birthday and also a great time to get presents.”
Franz says he and Sanchez “both want the boys to know Christ. We want to do everything we can so that our sons are not only good men but good Christians who love others without judging them. We can’t promise they will always walk in Christ’s footsteps, but we at least can promise them a childhood that is Christ centered.”
During the week, the boys pray before every meal. Franz has discussed with Gabriel the importance of him having a quiet, peaceful time set aside in his day so that he can talk to God or be open to listening to God. Lazarus enjoys having Bible stories read to him from the children’s Bible that has its place on the family’s coffee table. The story of David and Goliath is his favorite, as well as Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a Sycamore tree; Lazarus likes it because the family sings a song together about him.
As service comes to a close with song, communion is set up. The children come back from Sunday school to meet with their families and are invited to take part in communion. Koeshall introduces communion as the body and blood of Christ “as we each understand that to be.”
This opens communion up for people of all faith and backgrounds to participate. Franz and Sanchez don’t want Gabriel and Lazarus to take part in communion yet, because they want them to understand what it really means. It is important that communion is not a routine for them. Koeshall invites individuals, couples, friends and families to take part in communion together. Franz and Sanchez take their communion together at the front of the sanctuary with Koeshall and pray together, putting their hands on each other’s back.
Franz and Sanchez have a firm belief that God put them together.
“I love my family so much,” said Franz. I can’t describe the love I feel…there are no words for it. I thank God in my prayers everyday for our family.”
Franz and Sanchez both want their sons to know how special they are, how much they love them, and how much God loves them. Since the boys were both adopted, “they know that they were chosen and that it was God’s plan,” says Franz.
The couple thinks this will give them strength and confidence later on in school and in life should they find any opposition to them being raised by two dads.