LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — At the historic St. Paul Catholic Church on West Short Street in downtown Lexington, the message is clear: the doors of the church are open, and they are rainbow colored in honor of Pride month.
"We thought we could do an installation that would become a topic of conversation," said Minister JR Zerkowski. "It wouldn't just be a one time event, it wouldn't just be a Pride festival for two days or a concert in this church, but it would get out a message that says this is the place to come if you need a church home."
St. Paul is known for being a welcoming place for people who identify as LGBT.
Zerkowski runs the LGBT Ministry Diocese of Lexington and knows first hand how important that is.
"The Catholic Church has not had a good record with LGBTQ persons. So, we're here to pastorally reach out and to say, this is your home. Come here. We love you. We cherish you and we want you to come out and we want you to come in. We're going to accept you and love you and support you. Just the way you are, just as God made you," said Zerkowski.
Zerkowski has lived through those challenges in his own life as a gay man immersed in the faith.
"I understand what it's like to feel marginalized. I have not always been accepted nor treated well by leadership in the church, nor by parishioners," he explained.
In May, the pope and holy see, which governs the catholic church, said catholic clergy cannot bless gay unions-signaling there's still a complicated relationship with the faith.
But parishes like St. Paul have gone out of their way to push back on that.
"When I hear their stories and see their pain. There's no other option but to try to do something to reach out, reconnect and welcome home," said Zerkowski.
They have received criticism and push back.
"It's very important that the church does exactly what the Church teaches, and the Church teaches that LGBTQ persons, gay persons are to be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity," said Zerkowski.
They plan to continue their efforts and will also attend Lexington's Pride Parade.
"Hopefully, we're serving as a model for other churches, other Catholic churches to do the same to intentionally reach out to those that feel that they're on the margin. Those that feel they're on the periphery, to those that feel excluded or maybe were actually told, we don't want you here, " said Zerkowski. "We don't have to agree with every last thing that everybody does, to respect and to love our neighbor. So, you know, while there are those that would vilify us for doing something like this, it always goes back to the gospel."