Rev. Kenneth King has heard a lot of stories.
He’s heard of teenage mothers, members of LGBT communities and citizens released from incarceration all being denied by their churches.
He’s heard some horrific things.
That’s why King has created a congregation where everyone – all colors, shapes and sizes – is welcome, and encouraged to worship.
“I heard some really hateful messages that I couldn’t understand and I could not fathom how God could ever be reflected that way,” he said.
King wanted to rewrite those messages. He began hosting Bible study in his own Prince George’s County home, dreaming of one day having a space his congregation could call their own.
Finally, that day has come.
His congregation, New Hope Baptist United Church of Christ, was just granted space to worship in the Oaklands Presbyterian Church building at 14301 Laurel Bowie Road.
“We wanted to create an experience where by all of God’s creations can come together and worship and not be concerned with hate preaching or preaching that involves excluding or dividing people,” King said. “We just want a message of love.”
This idea for an inclusive church has been in the making for more than ten years, he said. His first service as the Senior Pastor of New Hope will be at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18.
Although he and the church staff hope to attract everyone, King said they are intentionally preaching a message of love so those who have been “othered” feel comfortable attending his services.
“It’s a welcome place for everyone,” he said. “Anybody who has ever been oppressed, persons who have ever felt that they were not welcome in mainstream religion, persons who have felt that they are different that they had no place in the church.”
King grew up in southern Virginia in a church that spread a message of love. He knew as a young child that his calling was in the Protestant, Baptist and United Church of Christ denomination. It wasn’t until he was in his 20s that he decided to follow his calling and become ordained.
It was when he moved to Prince George’s County that he began to hear these horrific stories of religious persons being turned away from their churches.
“Becoming a part of churches in this area, particularly, is where I heard some stories that I couldn’t believe,” he said, adding, though, that he doesn’t expect too much criticism of his new congregation. “But, it is human nature to always look for fault in others, so I’m sure there will be those disapprovals.”
All who are looking to become a part of the New Hope congregation may attend an open worship kickoff event with a concert from their gospel choir on Nov. 10.
“The majority of the members are from Prince George’s County and they all have inane interest in having such a worship space,” he said. “It’s a space where they can feel comfortable and not be concerned with ever hearing messages of hate or dislike. We welcome everyone.”