Rev. Elder Freda Smith

posted in: Memorial | 14
Rev. Elder Freda Smith
Rev. Elder Freda Smith

Rev. Elder Freda Smith has inspired a generation of women, lesbians, and people of every gender and orientation. Just yesterday, we learned that Freda was placed into hospice care, and today we heard that she died. We give thanks for the compassionate care of hospice, and we pray for her long-time spouse of 40 years, Kathleen Meadows.

There aren’t many people in the history of the movement of Metropolitan Community Churches that have been as instrumental as Rev. Elder Freda Smith. And, we pause together to give thanks and to honor her life and her contribution. Not only did she inspire and change MCC, she also worked tirelessly and courageously in her state of California for legislative change as an early political activist.

Freda came from a Nazarene and Salvation Army background, and she was the first woman ordained in MCC, as well as the first woman elected as an Elder. In fact, for all who remember her, her story is THE story that will always be told about MCC in terms of inclusive language. At one of our early General Conferences, Freda noticed that most of the terms for pastors or leaders were exclusively male; so Freda asked for all the bylaws to be changed so that “he” could become “he or she,” or something more inclusive.  (She was ahead of her time in asking for a quick “search and replace.”)  Freda was told our process did not allow for that kind of change. Nevertheless, she persisted. Freda stood up EVERY TIME there was a gender-specific word in MCC bylaws, and petitioned for it to be changed to “he or she” instead of only “he.” Rev. Elder Freda Smith is the one we should credit for bringing about inclusive language as an early value and guiding principle of MCC.

You will be blessed by watching this sermon, which Freda gave a number of years ago at Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (USA). Or,this one that she gave in 2016 at our General Conference in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Two other contributions of note include:

1. Freda wrote a poem called “Dear Dora” that was read in the California Legislature in the early 1970s, and in countless other churches in these last 40 years.

2. Freda was the one who gave a sermon entitled, “Purple Grass,” which is now the name of an MCC award that honors those who have exceptional gifts in evangelism and preaching.

Rev. Elder Troy Perry, the Founder of Metropolitan Community Churches reminds us, “Freda Smith was a member of the Board of Elders and the Vice Moderator of our denomination. As most of us know, she was also the first woman ordained in MCC. Freda has shaped this movement as much as anyone has, and we have lost a hero.”

Rev. Elder Don Eastman, former Vice Moderator for MCC, says: “Rev. Elder Freda Smith was a true apostle of Jesus Christ in our lives and world. With the heart of a pastor and the voice of a prophet, she was a passionate and eloquent herald of the inclusive gospel – good news – that God gave Rev. Troy Perry and Metropolitan Community Churches. She was a formidable advocate for justice and inclusion. As an evangelist, Freda was a powerful witness of God’s unconditional love and acceptance for all people. She brought that message to many thousands of people in our churches and communities.

In her ministry as an Elder, Freda was often a pastor to pastors. She inspired, challenged, enlightened, and encouraged us. Like the apostle Paul was to the Corinthians, to many of us Freda was a spiritual parent. By her word and example she nurtured our growth as servant leaders.

Rev. Freda Smith’s influence will continue in the days and years ahead. The inspiration of her faithful life and ministry abides to encourage us as we carry on MCC’s mission to transform ourselves as we transform the world.”

On her website, Freda said this was her final prayer, as an evangelist: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and that I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” We are confident this is the absolute truth about Freda, and that we have been the grateful recipients of so many of her gifts.

Further details about memorial services and how you can honor Freda with your contributions here.


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14 Responses

  1. Wanda Floyd

    Thank you for saying “YES” so I would be able to do the same one day.. Though I never really met Rev. Elder Smith, she continued to be a role model of strength and perseverance in MCC for me. Her memory will continue to be with us all.

  2. Gwen Templeton

    Today, as I held you and Kathleen in my prayers, I felt a true sense of thankfulness for your devotion, your love, your bravery, your inspiration, and your determination to do the right thing for God. Your legacy lives on and it is up to the rest of us to carry it forward. You can now rest. A job well done! ❤️

  3. Herb Gillentine

    I met Rev. Elder Freda Smith in 1976 when our entire family was in Sacramento for our brother, Rev. David Gillentine, who was graduating from college. We attended River City MCC, and were all spiritually blessed by Rev. Freda and the entire congregation. In 1990, I moved to Sacramento, and joined the congregation at RCMCC. Rev. Freda was a spiritual beacon to me, as I struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism, and rejoiced with me when I was in recovery. She received a prestigious award for “Courage” from the mayor of Sacramento. My heart is with Kathleen and all the people who loved and cherished Rev. Elder Freda Smith. I hope I will be informed if there is a memorial service for her, here in Sacramento.

  4. Mary Smail

    What a sense of sadness rushed in when I read that Freda had moved onwards.

    I only knew her fleetingly through Jean, but her energy and vibrancy seemed endless – a definite example of the “double portion of your spirit”, except in Freda’s case it was a treble portion, or even more.

    It feels like a disk has gone from the spine of the founding MCC. She was a constant. I am grateful that I met her at conferences and could catch a sense of this truly intriguing woman of God.

    I send so much love to Kathleen who I greatly admire. I know a little of what the loss of Freda will mean. It’s the hardest thing ever. Grace be with you through and through Kathleen.

    Mary, London, UK 🦋

  5. Renee Eberling

    I did not know her,but,read so much about her life and devotion.May her memory and gifts she gave to MCC be remembered and treasured.
    A champion for women in ministry.
    She is now with the angels.
    God Bless and comfort her family.

  6. Ana Tarver

    I met Rev Elder Freda when she came to Resurrection MCC (Houston Tx) some ago when she came to Preach her famous Purple Grass sermon. I love her spirit and her smile she was very friendly. Wish I could had my picture taking with her when she came to Resurrection. Rest In Peace see you on the other side someday .

  7. George Olds and Ian Taylor

    I had the pleasure of signing several of Freda’s sermons both when she came to Toronto and at several General Conferences. We shared the Salvationist parts of our faith backgrounds, and her honesty and courage were shining beacons to the faith community at large.

    She was in my husband’s media relations class at one conference and she grasped the subject well, quickly and effectively, using her skills to God’s glory in subsequent interviews.

    Her wisdom and gentle strength were an inspiration to many. She will be both deeply missed and fondly remembered by all whose lives she touched. I count myself lucky to be in that group.

    Hugs to you, Kathleen, and to all her & your extended families.

  8. Christine Pasinski Thomas

    I came to River City MCC back in 1976 when I was still in the Air Force. I stayed with the church active as a member of “guitars unlimited” while I finished my undergraduate degree. Rev. Freda’s ministry was a balm in my early “coming out” years and I have a great deal of gratitude for Rev Freda, Kathleen, and the River City congregation. I have so many good memories. I loved Rev Freda’s dramatic reading of “Dear Dora, dangerous Derek diesel dyke” —- no one could read it like she could. Her courage was contagious. Back then our guitar group was a mixture of serious talent and folks like me who didn’t even know how to play a guitar. Rev Freda was never embarrassed by our motley group instead she continued to encourage us and invited us into worship services. She didn’t stop there. She invited us to join her on the state capital steps protested a host of issues. I remember these years with great joy. Rev Freda wanted us to live FREE! We sang the spiritual “Oh Freedom” as a signature song at the close of many services. We were hunger for the very freedom we sang about and those songs awakened our hunger to live free as beloved children of God. Wow, that had to be the Holy Spirit alive in Rev Freda, River City, and all of MCC. My heart goes out to Kathleen as she grieves. May Rev Freda’s life continue to inspire us all.

  9. Rev. Raeanna Biddle

    Rev. Elder Freda Smith was a true apostle of Jesus Christ. The ministry God called her to was blessed by the ever-presence of the Holy Spirit. I met Rev. Elder Freda when I was a member of MCC Dayton Parish, later Eternal Joy MCC. I recall one Spiritual Renewal that Rev. Freda led, in which the Holy Spirit was so powerful that the room was filled with a haze. Even people outside of the service sensed the Presence, Those who met her have been blessed by her ministry. Those who have never met her but have been a part of MCC, have also be blessed by how she influenced our witness of God’s love and grace. I look forward to seeing her again when I pass through the Gates. Please accept my sympathies.

  10. Shelley Lynn Tibbs-Moore

    I wish I could say I knew her personally, but what I know about Rev Freda, she was the greatest of souls, a fighter for right and well ahead of her time. I can envision Rev Elder Freda standing and making a motion to modify each and every article that was limited to male only reference in the bylaws, standing up for all when a need arose. That is a heroine of epic proportion.

  11. Dave Dishman

    Thank you Rev. Smith for bringing the word. I first heard you preach at the Northwest District Conference in October 1979. The sermon was Return of the Remnant. I’ve never forgotten this sermon or others – I’ll bet you are preaching in heaven.

  12. Linda Bradford/Carol Sharpe

    Oh Freda, you taught us. You challenged us. You even made us a bit angry but that was good because it made us really dig down and search what we believed. It two years later and I am just hearing about this and I know you are at peace and in His arms. My Carol passed in March of 20, so I know once the Lord is done with her, you can continue her education….. we are at such a loss without you. I listen to your tapes so much. God Bless you.

  13. Jean Kelsey

    I was a part of Sacramento MCC for 5 years. Can’t remember the exact years, but late 70s, early 80s. Frieda and Kathleen were my friends.

    I am so blown away by public support of Pride Month. I remember the hate. I remember being Frieda’s body guard at a Gay Pride Parade, and again at the General Conference in Miami Florida. And I remember Frieda’s, what… I can’t find the right word in my head. An old, worn-out word, Beacon, is the closest I can find.

    I don’t know what I am trying to say. Frieda changed my life. I was accepted for who I am, lifelong asexual. I learned the difference between being a religious person and being a spiritual person.

    I have so much more to say, but I can’t find the words. I have wanted to contact Frieda and Kathleen to tell them I still miss them. Now it is too late to reach Frieda. I wish I could tell Kathleen.

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