What’s all this about Welcoming Congregation?
Good News !!! The congregation is asking questions, expressing concerns, and discussing what it means to become a Welcoming Congregation. The role of the Welcoming Congregation Committee is to offer information about bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender people that is both factual as well as enlightening. The UUA’s “Welcoming Congregation Handbook Resources for Affirming Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and/or Transgender People”; Second Edition, is the basis for our information and our process of education.
The essence of the issue is that people of bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender persuasion are not made to feel welcome in most congregations. This is not, necessarily because we don’t welcome them but rather, because we are uncomfortable around them and don’t quite know what to say, or how to approach them. Certainly, there are people who will never be comfortable with bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender people, perhaps people in our congregation. But our committee is not forgetting the roots of our liberal heritage; that we welcome all opinions and all people; that we celebrate all our diversity. Our objective is to offer you information in a safe environment. That means, as you learn more about bisexuals, gays, lesbians, transgender people, you are openly encouraged to ask more questions and/or express all your feelings on the subject (yes, ALL your feelings). Without discussion, there can be no resolve.
The Welcoming Congregation Handbook offers this insight. “Churches are the most anti-homosexual institutions in America, and much of the justification used to promote anti-homosexual feelings, legislation, and violence is couched in “religious” language. So, it is particularly hard for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people to feel safe bringing their whole selves into churches. Even in Unitarian Universalist Congregations…”
Why this program?
Again, from the handbook: “Although bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender persons are not the only individuals who may feel unwelcome in your church, we believe it is very important for congregations engaging in this program to resist the temptation of devising some generalized program designed to tackle all human exclusions and prejudices. We say this is not because we believe that oppression and exclusion experienced by sexual orientation minorities are greater or deeper than those experience by racial and ethnic minorities or the physically challenged, but because homophobia does have different dynamic and context that lead to people feeling excluded from religious community – dynamic and context that need to be specifically and aggressively confronted.”
This program is so popular that may other faith denominations have adapted it to help them become Welcoming Congregations.
So what can we expect?
We would like to bring the issues of bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender (BLGT) persons to our congregation in many formats. We presently have a “Welcoming Congregation Bulletin Board” in the hall downstairs. This will bring you timely information about the events, news items of interest on the topic of BGLT, what your committee has planned and feedback from our conga gents. We are going to work on inclusive language, from the pulpit, within the religious education for children and, among ourselves. (We’ve been here before when UUA worked include the “female” in our new hymnal and among our organization). From the handbook: “What we call ourselves – what we wish to be named, all us human beings – is very important. Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will hurt you, too.” It’s crucial to remember that the language used to label you might say more about the user of those words than about your worth and being.” You can also expect monthly inputs to Tidings.
Through the workshops we will be offering, we hope to dispel many of the myths and blind spots of this topic that are part of each of us. The handbook offers 14 workshops, but, we may find that our community culture will dictate fewer of this number. There is no time frame for this process. It will take as long as it will take. We hope people will learn and grow from the various components of the program; to avoid an atmosphere of conflict, entrenchment, and polarization.
Please, if you have questions, concerns, or any comments at all, bring them to our attention or, if you’re more comfortable talking with Steve or the Executive committee, seek them out. We want to avoid as much discomfort as possible in this process.
To be continued….