When Rev. Keith Mozingo first came to Baton Rouge in 2005 to assist Metropolitan Community Church with hurricane relief efforts, he knew in his heart he would return.
By New Year’s Day 2007, he was back. He moved to Louisiana from Los Angeles, starting an 11-year journey as pastor at MCC of Baton Rouge.
Here, he’s known fondly as “Pastor Keith.” He’s welcomed new church members from every walk of life, brought together dozens of local LGBTQ groups at MCC’s Freedom Center, and helped launch and grow the Baton Rouge Pride Festival.
The church regularly hosts services for 40-80 people. It is a safe space, he says, where worshippers aren’t just acknowledged, but celebrated.
“It wasn’t always this way, but today MCC is out in the community. Everybody knows who we are and what we do,” Mozingo, 59, says.
Recently, one of his neighbors stopped him to say hi. The man recognized him from a newspaper photo of Mozingo’s blessing at Pride Fest.
“Here he is married with his four children, and he said, ‘I had no idea I lived around celebrities,’” Mozingo recalls. “And I got tickled. I said, ‘Well, I’m not too sure I’m a celebrity.’ He said, ‘Well, it’s really nice to know you’re here.’ Now, he could’ve taken a whole different route. Twenty years ago, I’d have been scared if he’d said, ‘I know who you are,’ but not today. It was a welcome sign.”
This month, Mozingo is embarking on a new adventure as senior pastor at MCC’s founding church in Los Angeles. As he prepares for the next step, he’s been reflecting on all the unforgettable lessons Baton Rouge has taught him.
“Before I came to Baton Rouge, I knew the people of Louisiana were obviously resilient. But there really is just something about the people here. They love you with everything they have. I, along with a third of the congregation, lost everything in the flood of 2016, and these people put my house back together. They helped each other put their houses back together. When the chips are down, we put all of our aggravations with each other aside, and we are there for each other. And I think that’s what’s kept me here for so long.”
This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.