Monday, October 09, 2006

Welcoming Congregation

As a part of our Congregational Meeting this Sunday, October 15th, we will be having a congregational vote on whether our congregation wishes to be recognized by the UUA as a Welcoming Congregation.

If you haven't been following along for the past 18 months, let me trace our steps.

● In February 2005 a committee of about 10 members formed to help lead SMUUCh towards becoming a Welcoming Congregation.
● In the Spring of 2005, the Board of Trustees voted in support of this program and to endorse the Welcoming Congregation committee's efforts.
● On April 3, 2005 I spoke in front of over 600 people at rally held at Colonial UCC opposing the Marriage Ammendment in the State of Kansas.
● In April of 2005, the Welcoming Congregation Committee began leading a series of montly workshops based on the Welcoming Congregation Handbook. These workshops continued until October 2005.
● In September of 2005, the Second Sunday Forum featured a panel including a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, a gay man, and the mother of a lesbian woman. The panel discussed a wide variety of topics including their experiences in faith communities. Approximately 80 people attended the forum.
● In the Spring of 2006, the Welcoming Congregation Commitee offered a repeat series of workshops.
● In September of 2006, I preaching a sermon on The Importance of Being Welcoming.
● In October of 2006, Micheline Burger authored a DrumBeat column on the Welcoming Congregation.
● On October 15th, the service is fittingly titled "Where Our Faith Has Stood on Equality." You won't want to miss it!

But there are probably a few people who have questions. If you want to do research, visit the UUA site on the Welcoming Congregation program. Or check out this History Timeline.

Here is my own FAQ based on conversations that I'd had with some members of the church.

Q. How many UU congregations are Welcoming Congregations?
A. Over 500. The Spring of 2006 marked the date when over 50% of UU congregations had gone through the Welcoming Congregation process. Additionally, over 85% of large UU congregations are Welcoming Congregations. The numbers are about the same for mid-size congregations like us. Of the 10 largest UU congregations in the United States, 8 are Welcoming Congregations. Of the two that are not, one is going through the process and the other has been nationally recognized for its public witness challenging homophobia!

Q. Aren't we already welcoming?
A. On one level I believe we are. On another level, we could do some things to clarify our intentions to be welcoming. Consider this: over the past 3+ years I have received literally dozens of calls and emails from people in the community wanting to know if visiting this church is safe for them if they or their family member is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Visiting a church is scary and they want to know if they will be rejected or worse. Becoming a Welcoming Congregation helps to make our invitation clear to all. Remember, to be inviting is at the heart of our mission.

Q. How can we ensure that everybody will be welcoming?
A. We can't. Churches are not perfect places. But we can assert what we endeavor to stand for. I believe this vote is primarily an expression of aspiration. It says what we aspire to be. (In this way, it is like when we say that "Love is the docrtine of our church" every Sunday.) If you want to read a really awesome sermon about this, click here.

Most of all, come to worship this Sunday, October 15th at 10:00 or 11:30 and come to the Congregational Meeting at 12:30. By the way, the worship service will feature several very special testimonials you will be sorry to miss.