Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) leaders grieved the death of Delores Berry who transitioned on August 8, 2017. She left behind a host of clergy and so many friends who were grateful to have known her.
The MCC Council of Elders issued a joint statement. “As Elders for MCC, we are deeply saddened by the death of Rev. Delores Berry. Rev. Delores’ gifts of exuberance, evangelism, prophecy, song, prayer, and speaking the truth, touched the lives of thousands of MCC people. Her contributions to the ministry and life of MCC have been profound. Those with whom she prayed were changed and blessed. Those who heard her sing found joy. Those who heard her preach encountered her remarkable ability to bring the Word to life. Rev. Delores could pierce the veil, bringing messages of healing and comfort to those she surrounded with her strong faith and compassion. She was a foundation for many of us in MCC. Someone with her gifts and character is rare. We have been forever blessed to have had her in our midst.”
On her Gospel music and ministry website, Rev. Berry told her own story: “I am Rev. Delores Berry. I am a blessed child of God! I answered the Call to Ministry at the age of 19. I was an Ordained Minister in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. I came out at the age of 24. God called me OUT! I should have come out at the age of 2! I always knew that my soul was a rainbow! It was always clear in my heart that God created me as a Lesbian.”
In 1978 she transferred her clergy credentials to MCC and in 1984 she fell in love with Judy Kiser and they were spouses until Judy died. Today, they are reunited.
Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, Interim Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches, said, “It was an honor to know Rev. Delores. We both shared a passion for discernment and evangelism. I loved her like so many did because she was always inspiring us. We are so sad, and this is such a great loss, but we knew her well and will heed her urging to continue to sing out the good news of the love of God!”
Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson said, “I met Rev. Delores Berry more than 40 years ago, when we were both in our twenties. Delores Berry was an original. She was a gospel artist who touched the hearts of all of us in the LGBT community. As an African American MCC lesbian pastor and evangelist, she came out and stayed out with passion and ferocity while her self-reflexive humor was rooted in spiritual wisdom which offered an intuitive, healing presence to thousands of people. She was a bridge between many worlds. For Paula and me, she was part of our dispersed and eclectic family. She loved Judy Kiser, with whom she is now reunited in glory along with her mother Inez.”
Rev. Elder Dr. Candace R. Shultis, King of Peace MCC senior pastor, remembered Rev. Delores Berry. “I’ve known Delores since she and I were both living in Baltimore, Maryland. In those days, Delores had already become clergy in MCC and I was still trying to find my way. She was a counselor to me and sang at my ordination. Over the years, both of us served on the Clergy Credentials and Concerns Committee. We always insisted on taking a day of self-care whenever we met, usually in Hollywood, California. On one of those occasions, we took the ‘Grave-line’ Tour. We were driven all over Hollywood in a converted hearse. I felt sorry for the obviously newly married couple in the back who had to listen to five clergy tell stories of funerals, memorial services, and burials. We laughed until we cried!
“Rev. Delores was justly proud to have a long description of her life and ministry in an encyclopedia of Gospel music. Mostly, I and so many others were blessed every time Delores preached from her heart and experience of God’s love; changed the words to some very familiar song so that it fabulously included all of us in the rainbow community; prayed over you for healing; or looked deep into your soul and spoke truth that only you and God could possibly know. When Delores lost her partner, her soulmate, Judy, something in Delores died. She has been yearning to be reunited with her beloved. And now she is. Delores, those of us who have been loved by you and loved you will miss you. But every time I see a rainbow, I will think of you and smile.”
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Director of MCC’s Office of Emerging Ministries, said, “My heart is so heavy. Delores was the first clergy of African descent who I met when I came to MCC 40 years ago. We soon became like family to one another, growing even closer over time. Delores was a powerful prophet with the voice of an archangel. In this moment, all I can say is that I miss my sister and yet am truly glad that she is now both in the arms of Jesus and back at home with Mama and her beloved Judy.”
Rev. Brendan Y. Boone, Fourth Pastor; St. John’s MCC, Raleigh, North Carolina; Daytona Beach, Florida, said, “From the moment I heard her sing, I knew I was in the right place and she would be instrumental in my MCC journey. Delores P. Berry, or ‘Patricia’ as Mama Berry called her, became and remained my Spiritual Mother for over 30 years. From preaching my ordination service at MCC-DC and my pastoral installation service at St. John’s MCC in Raleigh, and countless revival weekends, Delores was a constant presence in my ministry and my life.
She loved Jesus, Mama Berry, Judy, and MCC pretty much in that order. She believed in the presence and power of angels and often shared with others what the Spirit was sharing with her to communicate with others. She was always on point even if the recipient of the message was not ready for the message. She was a living angel among us who left us a legacy in word and song we will not forget her. Years ago, she reframed the song, ‘Sign Me Up For The Rainbow Jubilee.’ We can all find comfort and great JOY in knowing what she is living the Jubilee! I love you Delores . . . I thank God for the gift you were and still are to me.”
Rev. Candy Holmes, MCC Program Officer for People of African Descent (PAD), said, “There are no words to describe the feeling I have regarding Delores. She was a friend. She was and is now an angel. She was a lover of people. And as I pause to imagine MCC and the people of African descent family without her physically here, my heart sinks. But I hear Delores saying, ‘Don’t worry about me, I am singing with the angels. And loving you still.’ Thank you, Delores, for sharing your heart and soul with me and so many more. I love you. Your Rainbow Candy.”
Rev. Bernie Barbour, MCC Amarillo, said, “Rev. Delores was a good friend. If I were stranded on a desert island, I would want Delores to be with me. She is the one who would say: ‘ let’s pray!’ She had an incredible spirit and left herself open for the Spirit to give her a message to the person she was talking to. She was a character; never a dull moment. She will be greatly missed.”
Rev. Wanda Floyd, Transitional Pastor, MCC Charlotte, said, “As I began my journey of becoming clergy within MCC, Rev. Delores Berry would often ask when I would be ‘stepping out of the boat.’ As I reflect on my journey with her, one memory continues to come to mind. In 1991 my partner was killed during a car-bike collision; Rev. Berry visited St. John’s MCC, Raleigh, North Carolina, soon after the accident. As she often did, she took my hand to share a divine message. She said I was called to be a ‘wounded healer.’ As I listened, I did not want to hear the words but they have stuck with me ever since. While in divinity school, I read the book Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen, and with every turn of the page, I remembered my conversation with Delores. I can honestly say I do minister to others from the place of loss in my soul. I feel honored and blessed to have had her on part of my journey and I am grateful to be counted in the number of people she touched.”