Wayne Bradley was born on August 7, 1949 on the South Side of Chicago to Herbert and Josephine (Messerschmidt) Bradley. An older sister, Lola, died a few hours after she was born on Pearl Harbor Day. A younger brother, Warren, was born two years and nine months after Wayne. Wayne grew up in the neighborhood not far from where his father ran a drug store at Halsted and 61st Streets. Wayne’s dad moved the pharmacy to suburban Skokie where the family moved when Wayne was a senior in high school. Wayne had excelled in school and remained in the old neighborhood to graduate from Harper High School.
Wayne's father had been raised as Methodist and his mother a German Lutheran. Wayne attended the Lutheran church and Sunday School throughout his childhood. On Saturdays he often was at church again with his mother who was carrying out her altar guild responsibilities. Wayne was fascinated by the organ, often sitting beside the organist as she was practicing and even pretending to play at home. He studied piano and then organ in his developing years. When Wayne was around 15-16 years old, the church organist retired. When an interim organist left after a short time, Wayne’s father proposed that Wayne be given the opportunity to accompany worship. The pastor thought Wayne was too young, but at his father’s insistence he was given a chance…and was so successful he continued in the position. When the family moved to Skokie, Wayne became the organist for St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church.
Wayne received a teaching scholarship to study at Northeastern Illinois University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and music. He enrolled at the Lutheran Theological School at Chicago in 1971. It was during these years that Wayne began to deal with his emerging gay identity. He experienced great conflict between his sexual feelings and his deep faith in God. He spent time in the library researching and reading all he could find about homosexuality—and fearing that he would be discovered. He eventually did his field education service at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Logan Square, where the pastor was gay. This pastor told Wayne about the Metropolitan Community Church and Good Shepherd Parish in Chicago. Good Shepherd MCC had been formed in the spring of 1970. As one of the few Christian congregations in Chicago at that time where LGBT people were welcome—the Dignity chapter was another—Good Shepherd was a thriving parish. For many years, the only Sunday Worship Service was at 7pm.
Wayne attended worship for the first time at Good Shepherd in 1977 (or 1978?). In conversation with the organist after the service Wayne learned that he was leaving. Wayne applied and was immediately hired as organist. As he moved toward being openly gay, Wayne left seminary before receiving his degree because he understood that he could not be ordained at that time as an openly gay man. He taught music in Chicago Public Schools for a number of years. Eventually he became organist at St. Luke’s Church as well as at Good Shepherd and worked part-time in the office for both congregations.
In August 1984 Rick Peterson visited Good Shepherd where he was meeting a friend. He struck up a conversation with Wayne after the worship service where they discovered their mutual musical interests. Wayne was also attracted by Rick’s faith background. They started dating and soon became a couple, moving together into a Victorian greystone condominium in Wrigleyville in 1986.
When the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish left in 1992, the Board suggested that Wayne get certified by MCC as a lay pastor. Wayne did that and was installed as Good Shepherd’s lay pastoral leader that August. Rick subsequently joined the church and became active as the pastor’s spouse. After a few months, MCC’s District Coordinator suggested that Wayne proceed toward ordination. Wayne was ordained at MCC’s General Conference in July 1994.
Wayne interviewed for a pastoral position with the MCC congregation in Glendale, California. The congregation’s more “high church” liturgical tradition fit Wayne’s interests and he and Rick found the move to California to be appealing. After being offered this pastoral position, Wayne met with the president of Good Shepherd to inform him of his decision to resign and relocate. The president urged Wayne to reconsider and immediately called a congregational meeting—which overwhelming affirmed Wayne as Good Shepherd’s pastor. So Wayne decided to remain and served as Good Shepherd’s pastor for another nine years.
Several Good Shepherd members were active with the Howard Brown Clinic which opened a new facility in 1995. During this 25th anniversary year for Good Shepherd Wayne was able to fulfill his desire to start a Sunday morning worship service—which gathered in a large meeting room at the clinic. Over the following year Good Shepherd continued providing both a Sunday morning and evening worship service each week. When the morning service outgrew the capacity of 40 persons at Howard Brown, Wayne and Good Shepherd began looking for a new facility.
Wayne heard about Summerdale United Church of Christ, a small congregation whose pastor had recently left. Good Shepherd joined the Summerdale congregation for a joint worship service on Palm Sunday in April of 2000. Both congregations were satisfied by the experience so Good Shepherd moved its office there and they continued worshiping jointly. However, the building was not well-maintained and after several years the two congregations could not agree on a plan for shared ownership and renovation of the building. So Good Shepherd moved again to share space with the Lord of Life Lutheran Church in the Rogers Park neighborhood. The move to a more distant neighborhood, plus the existence of many more LGBT-welcoming congregations in the city, resulted in declining attendance at Good Shepherd. Wayne resigned as pastor in November 2003.
Wayne had earlier decided to pursue a master’s degree in organ performance. He studied at Roosevelt University with David Schrader and graduated in May 1993. After leaving Good Shepherd, he became organist at Forest Glen United Church of Christ. When Wayne’s father’s health declined and he moved to assisted living at St. Paul’s House, Wayne became the organist there.
Although retired from active ministry, Pastor Wayne continues to serve on occasion as chaplain for American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER). He and Rick are also active supporters of numerous community organizations, including Vital Bridges (formerly Open Hand Groceryland); the Legacy Project; the Center on Halsted; and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from information provided by Wayne Bradley.)
Biography Date: May, 2013
MCC | Artist/musician/poet | Chicago | Illinois
“I remember Wayne Thomas Bradley as my Scoutmaster...he was known as Chaplain Bradley! This was around 1976 or 1977. Chaplain Bradley taught us to respect any and all even if they did not seem to conform to the normal beat of the human drum. He taught me how to pitch a tent, make a campfire and to this day I still make a great cinnamon-red-hot-candy-stuffed apple wrapped in tin foil and thrown in a camp fire! Silly, yes, but I still remember that and my wife and daughter love it! Chaplain Bradley also presided over a church service if the camping trip lasted until Sunday; Lutheran-themed and he was a motivational factor for my later conversion to Catholicism after my wife and I married in 1996. He was our Scoutmaster when we went to a big Scout Jamboree in Michigan. He as always had a great sense of humor and I will never forget him singing a capella the words to "Taps"...When I entered the military in 1983, the first time I heard Taps played by a live bugle cadet I could not stop thinking and seeing in my mind Chaplain Bradley singing" God is nigh." Good memories from a long time ago and I do hope he and his husband are well.”
– as remembered by Anthony Dulling on September 6, 2016
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