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Church message of hope

By Shirley Dang Special to the Daily Planet
Friday December 01, 2000



Sunday morning the Rev. Mark Wilson will be preaching about AIDS/HIV. The sermon he’ll deliver won’t be doom and gloom, however. 

“You can’t preach homophobia or sexphobia, or look at it in terms of AIDS being punishment for people,” he said. “The preaching I do is a very hopeful message.” 

Wilson will be hosting a special service honoring World AIDS Day at 11 a.m. at McGee Avenue Baptist Church. 

He’ll be joined by Prison to Praise, a singing group of prisoners with HIV/AIDS. 

This Sunday, in honor of the day, the south Berkeley church is opening its doors to the entire community.  

The Rev. Wilson delivers his message of hope in the face of HIV/AIDS to his congregation of 250-300 people each first Sunday of the month. During these special services, about 10 percent of the parishioners come to the alter to pray for relatives or friends with HIV or AIDS, he said. 

While the church has held the monthly service since 1994, the message has spotlighted tolerance in the face of AIDS and HIV since he joined the church eight years ago.  

“It’s not a special day we’re having. We don’t just talk about HIV and AIDS for one day out of the year,” he said. 

And they don’t just talk about it only on Sundays. McGee Avenue Baptist Church has several outreach programs. One teaches prevention and another offers food services for those with HIV and AIDS. The city gave a grant to McGee Baptist three years ago, recognizing its dedication to fostering tolerance and teaching HIV prevention and education.  

A special communion will end the service. Those accepting the communion wafer are symbolically accepting a part of the body of Christ. This acceptance serves to unite those fighting the prejudices that affect those with AIDS or HIV, he said.  

“If one part of the body is suffering, then the whole body is. If one is suffering from AIDS, then all of us do. By emphasizing unity, we encourage everyone to overlook differences.” 

McGee Baptist Church is at 1640 Stuart St. Call 843-1774.