When The Rev. Michael Caine became Old First Reformed United Church of Christ’s first permanent out pastor in 2012, he set out to broaden the church’s reach to underserved populations.
Three years later, he said he has done just that.
“We’ve been able to welcome new people — LGBTs, young people 20-35, families with small children and empty nesters — and develop our traditions and teachings to be more visible to them,” Caine said. “Sometimes in the church, we worry that our neighbors aren’t interested, but we’ve really found just the opposite to be true over the past few years.”
Caine, 54, previously served as the church’s covenant minister for three years before becoming head pastor-teacher, wearing several hats.
“Pastoral care is a generalist’s job, so to speak. Certainly, we have ritual and worship, which are the cornerstones,” Caine said. “After that, you are both cruise director and grassroots social worker. I also do a lot of seeing members off to the right expert or professional, depending on the case.”
Then there is the no-small-task of shepherding a community, Caine said.
“That part never ends,” he laughed. “From refereeing games on the playground to figuring out institutional stuff.”
In July 2014, less than two months after Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality, Caine officiated the first legal same-sex marriage at Old First.
“We’ve been gay-friendly for a long time, and performing gay marriages for decades, but it was this great moment, full of excitement. I think it was a moment that was bigger than all of us,” Caine said, joking that he’s thankful he won’t have to drive to Delaware or New Jersey every time he is asked to officiate a same-sex wedding. “It feels good to be able to include that in the life of our church now.”
While Caine said he is thankful for the national progress on marriage equality, last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling came as less of a surprise to him than how much people’s attitudes have changed towards LGBTs.
“I remember I was at the annual UCC meeting in Cleveland when I heard the ruling and it startled me not that it was a favorable decision, but how we have had such major changes in societal attitudes in the United States towards our queer neighbors in an incredibly short time.”