Concert Series At Congregational Church Begins June 1

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Chely Wright

The Congregational Church UCC will sponsor a fundraiser for the Manhasset High School Gay/Straight Alliance Club (GSA) on Friday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m., downstairs in the church’s parish hall. Funds will also support the GSAs at Schreiber High School and Weber Middle School in Port Washington. The evening features singer/songwriter Chely Wright for a night of Story and Song.

The Friday, June 1, concert is the first in a series of three Concerts For A Cause sponsored by the Congregational Church. On the evening of Friday, June 8, the church hosts its second event featuring The Wineskins, an acoustic folk band from Oxford, MS, who will raise money for Adventures in Learning. The third concert, scheduled for Friday, June 15, features local Manhasset favorite Raffi Froundjian, with proceeds to benefit the Katie Oppo Research Fund (for ovarian cancer).

It all starts with Wright on the first Friday of June. Named one of New York Magazine’s “20 People We Love in 2010,” Wright has released nine studio albums, charted more than 15 singles, and sold more than 1,500,000 records in the United States alone. She was also the first major country artist to officially come out as gay.

Upon the release of her 2010 album, “Lifted Off the Ground,” and her memoir, Like Me, Wright stunned the country music world when she came out. She told her story on the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and on Ellen. Wright followed this up with a 2011 documentary, Wish Me Away, chronicling her decision, which won numerous awards including the Best Documentary Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Centerpiece Award at New York’s Newfest Film Festival.

Coming out took a major toll on Wright’s career, including a serious drop in record sales, vicious hate mail, and the loss of people she considered friends in Nashville’s country music establishment. However, she has never regretted her decision, only wondered why it took her so long. Among her reasons for coming out, Wright has cited a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward LGBT people, particularly LGBT youth, and the damage to herself from leading a double life.

Now, Wright is a role model serving as the national spokesperson for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). She also founded the LIKE ME organization, a nonprofit that provides assistance, resources and education to LGBT individuals and their families and friends. Wright lives in New York City and is married to activist and author Lauren Blitzer-Wright, who is director of marketing for Sony Entertainment. In 2013, the two became parents to twin boys.

Wright has written, “There is something positive happening in communities of faith regarding LGBT issues and it’s exciting to witness. In addition to LGBT clergy, we have straight allies in the clergy who are championing our freedoms too…Their efforts and the work of so many others is the very reason I’m so proud to be a board member for Faith In America, a nonprofit dedicated to ending religion-based bigotry and the harm that bigotry does to LGBT people. Important and exciting work, indeed…LGBT people of faith are strong in numbers…We implore those who practice acts of religious-based bigotry to realize that God is not theirs—God is for all of us. It is my deep belief that some day I will meet my Maker and I will be asked who I am and what I did for others. Every day, I am working hard, preparing my answer to be, ‘I am a gay, Christian, farm girl from Kansas who sang country music and I did the very best I could do—to know God and to share God.’”
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased using a credit card online at www.eventbrite.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the door (cash/check).

The Congregational Church (UCC) at 1845 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset, across the street from the Apple Store. For more information, call Rev. Jimmy Only or Rev. Lori Burgess at 516-627-4911 or visit www.uccmanhasset.org.

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