on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

My Congregation Is HIV Positive, And So Is Yours

I want to continue my thoughts from my last post when a patient asked me where my church is when he heard that I’m a minister. I responded with “It is here, you are sitting in it.” I wasn’t kidding.

This clinic really is my congregation, and I love its members and staff. If I’m honest there are a few members I don’t particularly like, but I try to love ’em anyway. I’ve been a pastor here for 15 years. Its a pretty tight community.

How is our HIV Clinic like a congregation, and how is it different from most congregations?

Like many congregations:

  1. We are a growing congregation with about 7-10 new members every week.
  2. Our goal is to keep new and existing members coming back on a regular basis so that they can have a meaningful and full life.
  3. We have a new members’ orientation process so that we can take time upfront to get to know one another and know what to expect.
  4. We are between 18 and 80. Many of our members bring their children with them.
  5. Some of our members are hospitalized each week, and our staff visit them and let the rest of the staff know how they are doing.
  6. We have a weekly staff meeting and work hard trying to figure out how we can care for our members more effectively.
  7. We pray for our members.
  8. We have yet to find one of us who is perfect.
  9. If you are sad or depressed or afraid, this is a good place for you.
  10. We always have more needs than we have the budget to meet those needs.
  11. We call every member during the week of his/her birthday to wish ’em a Happy Birthday.
  12. Many of us are HIV Positive, some of us are not.
  13. Many of us are unemployed or under employed, while others teach in respected institutions, are attorneys and physicians, serve as restaurant managers or as school teachers. Some of us have no income while a few of us make six figures.
  14. We are gay and straight and bi-sexual.
  15. A few of us have no faith and some of us have lost faith.

Different from many congregations:

  1. We have people drive from all over Alabama and neighboring states to see us.
  2. We have almost an equal number of black and white members with a growing Hispanic population.
  3. We are interfaith including Christians, Buddhists, Muslims andJews.
  4. Judgment is not in our job description.
  5. Our staff members call more than 20 countries home.

We are parents, spouses, partners, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, uncles, and aunts.

My main point is our congregation is a community of people who are like most congregations.

Most of all, all of us are children of God.

My hunch is your “congregation” is right in front of you too, open your eyes and see.


  1. Anonymous

    This post spoke to me in that it reflects something I’ve been thinking about lately. Even though folks I serve in my work tell me at times that God sent me to them, and that I have been a blessing to them, I’ve only recently started to realize that there is truth in that sentiment. I’ve been biding my time doing this work until I figured out my true calling, and not realizing that I am actually already doing some things that I was obviously meant to do, and I am also blessed to have the opportunity to do them. Thanks for sharing your wonderful welcoming positive energy.

  2. Malcolm Lewis Marler

    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I am also starting to realize more and more that I am “the blind” who needs to be healed so that I can see the opportunity for a “God encounter” sitting right in front of me.

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