|Pastor Amy Venable, center, presents the "It Worked for Us" plaque to Jason Martin and Marilyn Nicely, members of St. Stephen’s Reconciling Ministries Committee, in recognition of the "It Gets Better" videos.
St. Stephen’s UMC in Norman partnered with OU journalism students to produce an online video series, "It Gets Better," that seeks to combat bullying and promote the church’s mission as a community of faith that welcomes all.
The series earned the 2012 "It Worked for Us" Award in the South OKC District. In late June, video views totaled more than 1,800.
The 10 videos can be viewed on YouTube and on the church’s website, www.ststephensnorman.org.
The series was produced by St. Stephen’s Reconciling Ministries Committee and a team of OU students, as part of their senior capstone project, said Pastor Amy Venable.
Launched in 2010, the worldwide It Gets Better Project began with one YouTube video created in response to the suicides of young people who were bullied—particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youths. Since then, thousands of videos have been created, with millions of views.
At St. Stephen’s, Jason Martin, who is a member of the church’s Reconciling Ministries Committee, came up with the idea of creating the video series. He was excommunicated from his childhood church and rejected by his family for being gay. He said he found love and acceptance at St. Stephen’s.
"Initially our mission was to connect with one person, one teenager, or one LGBT person, one young family—and let them know there are families of faith out there that welcome all people," Martin said. "For so many people in the LGBT community, because they have been beat down most of their lives and told they are not worthy, church and religion are dirty words.
"To be told by your family you are not good enough is hard," Martin continued. "To feel like God is telling you you’re not good enough is a totally different rejection. St. Stephen’s is there to help heal the hurt that so many have faced on many levels."
The video series not only tackles bullying, but also spotlights the church’s commitment to service and mission work, its programs for youth and families, and its long history of working for social justice. Church staff as well as individual members and families are featured.
"We wanted to send the message that not only does ‘It Get Better,’ but at St. Stephen’s we are working to make it better," Martin said.
For more information, call the church, 405-321-4988, or visit the website http://www.ststephensnorman.org.