My name is Darren Freeman-Coppadge. I was born and raised in Maryland, and save for a recent 5-year stint in Massachusetts, I’ve lived here my entire life. My family and I have been going to Cedar Ridge for some time. My husband first started attending CRCC in 2003 while he was in college, and I started regularly attending in the summer of 2005. We met at CRCC and became good friends. At the time, we were both conflicted in some way about whether our sexuality conflicted with our spirituality, but both felt led by God’s Spirit that there was such a thing as gay people who could be faithful followers of Christ. That previous sentence does no justice to the difficult, oftentimes torturous, process we endured to reconcile our sexuality and spirituality. But we were able to do so, in no small part because of the grace, compassion, and willingness to walk beside us exhibited by many in this beautiful church community, including Brian and Grace McLaren, Matthew, the Duncans, and many others. Even members who disagreed with us theologically were humble in their acceptance of us, and in their demonstration of God’s unconditional love. And for that, we are truly grateful.

In 2007, my friendship with Jonathan blossomed into romance, and in August 2010, we became the first gay couple to be married at CRCC. At the time, gay marriage wasn’t legal in Maryland, so we, like so many other same-sex couples in that era, had a separate legal ceremony in a state where gay marriage was legal (Vermont for us). Nonetheless, we consider August 14, 2010, our true wedding day because it was there that we made a lifelong vow to one another in the presence of our pastor, our families and friends, and our church home. When you grow up gay in the church as we did, you suffer a lot of attacks and hatred, sometimes explicitly and other times implicitly. So finding a place where you are accepted and loved cannot be taken for granted. That is why we love this church and have devoted ourselves to serving in this community for so long. 

In 2013, I found myself unsatisfied with my work as a psychiatric clinical pharmacist. I wanted to be working with people more closely, walking with them through their toughest trials, not merely managing their symptoms with medications. So I chose to go back to school, and was fortunate to be accepted into a wonderful social justice-oriented doctoral program in counseling psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. It was an incredibly tough decision to leave our home, our community, and, perhaps most of all, our wonderful church. Throughout the five years we were away, we never stopped considering CRCC “our” church, and continued to pay tithes to CRCC. When my program was completed, it was pretty much a no-brainer that we would return to Maryland to be closer to our respective families and to be present again with this great church community. 

By: Darren Freeman-Coppadge

What I have always loved about CRCC is the people. Over my many years here, I have invited many people to Cedar Ridge, people from all faiths (and some with none at all), backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, etc., and I have never once had to worry about whether they would be accepted and embraced as they were. Having grown up in the church (I’m a preacher’s kid, or “PK” as we like to call ourselves), I’ve never experienced that kind of comfort at any other place of worship I’ve attended. I always had to worry about what so-and-so might say to my gay friend who was visiting, or how much the pastors might forcefully proselytize my agnostic/atheist friends. But not so at Cedar Ridge: My friends have universally felt welcomed and not judged. 

I also love the social justice mission that we have as a church. A few years ago, I was part of a visioning process for our church, and what we collectively came up with as the official vision and mission of CRCC was so Christ-centered and beautiful that it continues to captivate and inspire me to this day as I continue to learn and live what it means to be a follower of Christ and a manifestation of his Love for all of creation.   

But perhaps what I love most about Cedar Ridge was something articulated by my husband. Several years ago, prior to moving to Massachusetts, it was fairly routine for us to discuss what we loved about CRCC and what we longed for it to become. Anytime we left a service or an event, we would talk about CRCC in the past, present, and future. One evening, we were thinking about what made CRCC special, and out of nowhere, Jonathan stated in what I swear to be divine inspiration: “Cedar Ridge is a safe place to wrestle with God.” Chills went through me in that moment, and I remember it vividly to this day. That is the perfect summary of what this church is all about. It is why we came to the church, why we stayed, and why we were desperate to return. 

If you came to the Freeman-Coppadge home on the weekend, you would find messy chaos! Our 3-year-old son, Langston, is a very sweet and charming little guy, but he’s got energy for days! Jonathan and I try desperately to keep up, but we have determined this is a lost cause. We are both introverts, but we have been blessed with an extroverted child who keeps us in a perpetual state of energy depletion because he demands a constant audience, which is more attention than we have in us to give. So please stop by on the weekend. We will be so happy to pawn off our little guy on you while we get some needed introvert time with our books and Netflix!