Sunday, September 1, 2013

Welcoming Congregation Renewal

What is a Welcoming Congregation?
The Welcoming Congregation Program is a volunteer program for Unitarian Universalist congregations that want to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people with marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities.

First launched in 1990, the program grew out of an understanding that widespread prejudices and ignorance about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people existed within Unitarian Universalism, which resulted in the exclusion of LGBTQ people from our congregations.
Today, 66% of U.S. UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregations and 94% of Canadian UU congregations are recognized as Welcoming Congregations. The program is supported by LGBTQ Ministries.

For Piedmont UUC (Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church) this began in the Fall of 2004, when the Piedmont UU middle school youth protested that the ages 4-18 Social Justice Sunday programs were boring. The senior high echoed their complaints. Subsequent meetings with each group led to a combined brainstorming session where both groups (between 15 and 20 youth) decided they wanted to work together on social justice efforts with more meaning. Notes from those meetings document that they wanted to work on something that they knew could make a difference, that required more than an hour on Sunday, and that introduced them firsthand to the people affected by the injustice. They decided to focus their efforts on justice for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Their subsequent efforts, under the leadership of Hugh Hammond, Susan Seithel, and Su Cummings, included discussions with local activists, a week-end long youth conference on LGBT issues, appearances before the Charlotte City Council, and active cooperation with LGBT organizations such as Time Out Youth, Charlotte Pride, and the Charlotte LGBT Community Alliance.

In January of 2006 the youth and the adults of the Social Justice Committee combined to kick off the series of 10 workshops which ended in May. Approximately 60 members joined the program in whole or in part. In November, 2006, the Piedmont UU congregation voted unanimously to become a Welcoming Congregation and the recognition was granted by the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) in early 2007.

Welcoming Congregation Renewal Program

Being recognized as a Welcoming Congregation was just the beginning, and was a commitment to the ever-ongoing work of being welcoming. LGBTQ Ministries recommends that congregations go through a Welcoming Congregation Program or a renewal program every five to ten years. A lot of turnover and changes to congregational life can happen over the years, and the wider culture also changes quickly with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Our renewal program will consist of 7 workshops, adapted from the UUA’s program. They will be held on the 4th Sunday of each month beginning in September (skipping December). There are a variety of workshops designed to help open us to other members and the greater community in a safe and loving way. There will be much self-discovery involved; over time much growth is expected.
We hope many of you will join us in this renewal of our journey of understanding. If you would like more information, or wish to help, please contact any of the following:
Barbara Hollingsworth 704-455-5495
Susie Benner 704-882-2059
Alan Perkinson 704-489-6309
Claudia Perkinson 704-489-6309
Joan Thieda 704-502-1340

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