The Welcoming Congregation Renewal Program
Greetings, Beloved Community!
In a recent sermon, I shared that we’ve begun the process of renewing our Welcoming Congregation status. The UUA has created benchmarks for congregations to complete for each year of renewal, and the renewal process will now be annual. Our aim as a denomination and as a church is “to be bolder with our Welcome” (UUA.org). The information below is taken from the UUA website and explains the requirements for renewal.
The Five Practices of Welcome Renewal are five benchmarks that every congregation will need to integrate into congregational life in order to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, genderqueer, non-binary, and the like feel fully welcomed, centered, and embraced in our Unitarian Universalist congregation. Welcoming Congregations will be required to meet the following benchmarks annually in order to remain “current” as a Welcoming Congregation.
What Is the Welcoming Congregations Five Practices of Welcome Renewal Program?
Transgender Unitarian Universalists (UUs) are still struggling to find community in UU congregations. Bisexual UUs suffer from invisibility while asexual, intersex, and polyamorous communities are wrestling with a progressive faith that does not privilege their truth. These and the many more social ills that plague our LGBTQ+ and TGQNB communities are calling us into a deeper commitment to insure that our Unitarian Universalist congregations are living into the Welcome that we boldly proclaim.
As such, we are unveiling the The Five Practices of Welcome Renewal, which are:
- Become a Welcoming Congregation
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation is the expectation of every Unitarian Universalist congregation. While over 800 congregations are currently “approved,” the nearly 300 congregations that are not are encouraged to fulfill the original objectives of the Welcoming Congregations application. We are one of those 800 currently approved congregations, and we have begun the renewal process here at PUUC.
- Welcoming Worship Services
The second Practice of Welcome Renewal is incorporating Welcoming Worship Services into our ordinary calendar of worship every year. These services might occur during LGBTQ+ Pride Month or any other day of observance. An LGBTQ marriage ceremony, naming ritual, or remembrance ceremonies may also fulfill this objective. We had a special combined service on PRIDE Sunday in Charlotte this summer. In November, Cady Gardiner-Parks will share an LGBT+ Story for All Ages book she has written and illustrated for kids.
- Welcoming Days of Observance
The third Practice of Welcome Renewal is an annual recognition and celebration of the Welcoming Days of Observance. These days and seasons are important to LGBTQ+ / TGQNB communities because they bring visibility and affirmation after generations of invisibility and erasure. These days remind all that “All of who you are is sacred. All of who you are is welcome.” On October 13th, we honored National Coming Out Day, and in November, we will observe Transgender Day of Remembrance.
- Welcoming Congregation Module
The fourth Practice of Welcome Renewal is an annual opportunity for your congregation to experience a Welcoming Congregation Module. A WC module is a UUA approved seminar / webinar. Each year the UUA LGBTQ program office will offer at least one Welcoming Webinar engaging LGBTQ+ / TGQNB issues and topics. Welcoming Congregations may register for a webinar or may chose to sponsor a local seminar for its local congregation and community. We are planning this event now.
- Support a Welcoming Project
The fifth Practice of Welcome Renewal is Support a Welcoming Project. Welcoming Congregations (WCs) are congregations that give generously of our gifts and resources. To remain current, WCs may donate a sizable donation to a local and national organization, campaign, or project that uplifts the dignity of LGBTQ+ / TGQNB communities. This year, through our 50/50 Shared Plate Social Action Project, we donated $539.00 to Salisbury/Rowan PFLAG and $463.98 to Time Out Youth of Charlotte for a total of $1002.98!
As you can see, we are well on our way to finishing up the required benchmarks the UUA has established. Thank you, all, for being the wonderful welcoming folks that you are.
Keep on Radiating Love!
~Rev. Mary Frances