By Dale Madison
One could say without any irony that Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Gayborhood is truly blessed in its abundance of places of worship, where both the LGBT and the straight can find comfort and connection to the mysteries of the universe with likeminded (and “like-souled”) individuals seeking nourishment for the spirit. One congregation that calls Wilton Manors—and, more specifically, the antique district—“home” is Shine Ministries, a small Pentecostal church located on North Dixie Highway, led by “out” pastors Jayeson Owen and Michelle Lugo.
Owen—known as “P.J.” growing up in South Carolina and North Florida—recalls getting more serious about his faith following graduation from high school, when he decided to attend the Assembly of God College in Lakeland. Early on in his academic life, he decided that he should be “up front” about his sexual identity with the school’s dean, so he scheduled an appointment, and announced that he was gay. In a line reminiscent of “Sordid Lives,” the dean told Owen, “You are not participating in your own recovery.”
After returning to South Carolina to enroll at Clemson University, Owen began working with a group of transgendered and transsexual persons, and he was asked to work with the group in “drag.” During his first year working with the T community, Owen found himself running late for a meeting one night, so he compensated by speeding over the posted limit.
“I saw the red and blue flashing light behind me,” Owen, now 34, recalls. “I pulled to the side of the road, and was arrested for going 10 miles per hour over the limit.” That was only the start of it.
After being booked into jail, Owen asked a corrections officer for permission to use the restroom. The answer was shocking. “We don’t allow faggots to use the bathroom,” he was told. It’s the kind of moment that can have a profound impact on the rest of one’s life, and work.
After finishing school, Owen moved to Broward County, and took a job teaching. “I loved teaching,” says Owen, but he knew that “there was just something missing. I heard about Shine Ministries, and I liked what I saw.
Words to gospel songs had always kept me close to God. I was at the beach one day listening to a couple near me, and they were also discussing Shine Ministries. That week, I attended my first Pride event, and Shine had a booth— it was the first time I knew there were gay Christians,” Owen remembers. “I began a Bible study in my home.”
Owen began to work more closely with the ministry at a time when he was experiencing his own personal upheaval, one familiar to a great many. “At the time, my home was in foreclosure. I was trying to get through this— and to personally ‘shine’—when I was notified that someone had passed on, and had left me some money for a new home.” At around the same time, Owen continues, “the call came from First Congregational Church, and they asked me to teach a small class.” His life had taken a 180-degree turn for the better. Owen has no hesitation about whom he credits. “HE truly does work in mysterious ways.”
Of the worship at Shine Ministries, Owen says, “We reject the legalism of Pentecostalism. We embrace that God is love 100 percent. We also believe in SODA: ‘Significance, Opportunity, Destiny, and Authenticity.’ We believe this is how we should live our lives— that you have to put yourself out into the Universe.”
Shine Ministries—located at 2401 North Dixie Highway, in the same building as the Scissorium and Cricket Finds—holds services at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. For more information about services, and a wide array of activities like snorkeling in the Florida Keys, music festivals, free weekly flapjack nights, and other events, visit mayweshine.weebly.com.