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Twin Cities pastor set to make history as Minnesota's first black transgender cleric

Updated: December 27, 2019 06:26 PM

A Twin Cities pastor is making history.

At the start of the new year, the Rev. Lawrence Richardson is set to officially become the lead pastor at Linden Hills United Church of Christ in Minneapolis. That would make him the first black transgender cleric in the state's history.

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"I care so much about the community," said Richardson. "I'm excited because this is a wonderful opportunity."

But life wasn't easy as a child for the St. Paul native, who struggled with poverty, homelessness and divorced parents battling addiction.

"It was challenging at best," Richardson said.

Plus, Richardson said there was something else.

"In high school, I knew that I wasn't gay or straight, but I didn't have a word for it," Richardson said.

Richardson came out publicly in high school, but still had to fight for acceptance.

"That was directly in opposition to the religious system that I inherited from my grandmother, so she was not as pleased with that identity," Richardson said.

After his transition, all along Richardson knew he had his faith. It was just about finding the right church.

"To be queer, to be black, to be trans, and to be homeless, there's not a lot of opportunities for people like that," Richardson said.

For the past 26 years, the Rev. Eliot Howard has been the lead pastor at Linden Hills United Church of Christ. But after watching Richardson shine for the last five years, he's ready to step down from that role.

"There was a process of discussing, is this the person we want to see leading us into the future," Howard said.

After an overwhelming show of support in the vote, Richardson happily accepted his new role.

"I think that conversation really focused on his gifts, the needs of this congregation and how those mesh. Very little conversation about him being transgender," Howard said.

Now, Richardson is making it his mission to welcome everyone, much like this church did for him.

"It's tempting to want to give up, I was there myself, but it really does get better and there are people in the world who will support and love you," Richardson said.

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Brett Hoffland

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