At a meeting of the congregation East Shore UU Church became a Welcoming Congregation. This is a completely volunteer program for congregations developed by the UUA's Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns. We saw the need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender people. We presented a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops was to reduce prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Our church created a Welcoming Congregation Task Force under the guidance of its Social Justice Committee. After several years of workshops, the congregation convened on a special Sunday, April 8, 2001 to listen to several moving "testimonials" of their journeys. By an almost unanimous vote the East Shore UU Church became a Welcoming Congregation, recognized by the UUA for its commitment to educating, supporting, and including all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
East Shore Congregation, which publicly and successfully welcomes bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people, has the following qualities:
- Includes and addresses the needs of b/g/l/t people at every level of congregational life - in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage - welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.
- Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.
- Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.
- Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clauses in our by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
- Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.
- Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons, and for celebrations of family definitions.
- Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.
- Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.
- Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.
- Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.
- Speaks out when the rights of bisexual gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.
- Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.
[Article developed in part by the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns, UUA, and Dale W. Craig, Welcoming Congregation Team Facilitator, East Shore UU Church, May 12, 2005.]