Hope United Church Receives Sandy Brown Award

A “caring community with a progressive tradition,” is how Hope United Church of Christ describes itself on its website. 

The Sturgeon Bay church at the corner of 12th Avenue and Michigan Street is walking that talk. 

The church received, out of 11 nominees (full disclosure: the Peninsula Pulse was among those), Open Door Pride’s Sandy Brown award. Rev. Carol Reynolds accepted the award on the stage at Sturgeon Bay’s Martin Park during the annual, Open Door Pride Festival, June 29.

Open Door Pride is a 100% volunteer organization representing the LGBTQIA+ and ally communities in Door County. Its annual Sandy Brown Award recognizes individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to the LGBTQIA+ community and who have made Door County a more welcoming place for everyone to live in harmony.

“Our first recipient was none other than Sandy Brown, who formed PFLAG [parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays] Door County in the 90s,” said Open Door’s founder and board chair, Cathy Grier, when announcing the awards. “We named the award after her contribution for making the LGBTQIA+ community in Door County safer, supported and seen.”

Hope Church became open and affirming in 2001 after many years of adult forum discussions and sermons on the topic. The church voted to affirm Marriage Equality and did a series of PFLAG workshops (including providing PFLAG with a safe space for meetings from 1994-2019). In 2021, the church began its LGBTQIA+ Youth gathering. Last year, it had the first-ever PRIDE Service in Door County – and held its second the day after the festival.

Among the bustle of festival day, over at the Hope Church bake-shop booth, members Mary Hall and her mom, Kathy White, may have been surprised that their church won the award – “because there are so many doing great things in this community,” Hall said – but feel the church’s commitment to community as a regular part of their lives. White has been a member of the church for 46 years and her daughter, Hall, grew up in the church. After college, Hall returned to Sturgeon Bay and began working for Hope as a staff member and choir director. She’s now been there for 20 years.

(From left) At Hope United Church of Christ’s bake-sale booth during the Open Door Pride Festival, June 29, are church members Kathy Bandstra, Mary Hall and her mom (behind her), Kathy White. Hall, who grew up in the church, returned after college to work there as a staff person and choir director, a position she has now held for 20 years. Photo by D.A. Fitzgerald.

One church member also in the booth came over while White and Hall were talking to interject her thoughts. She’d only been with the church for less than a year, but had been a church-goer her whole life and had something to say about Hope.

“This is the friendliest one,” she said.

The physical award is designed and created each year by a Door County artist. This year’s award was designed by glass artist Deanna Clayton of D.C. Studios in Fish Creek. 

Other nominees, in alphabetical order, were Darrick DeMeuse; Destination Door County (Julie Gilbert, president/CEO); Door County Maritime Museum (Kevin Osgood, executive director); Get Real Cafe (Veronica Ripp and Judy); John Contratto; Milly Gonzales; Northern Door Pride (Owen Alabado, chair/founder); Peninsula Pulse (Debra Fitzgerald, editor); Phil Berndt; and Ryan Shaw.

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