A “Welcoming Congregation” Adapted from the UUA website
In 1987, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) initiated the Welcoming Congregation program to address the negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay and lesbian people, which often result in exclusion from their churches. The Prairie Lakes UU Fellowship completed this self-study program and has been designated as a “Welcoming Congregation.”
Official UUA recognition allows us to more visibly open our church as a safe space for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons; to take positions on oppression in our larger communities; and to accomplish outreach. “Welcoming Congregations” include the needs of b/g/l/t persons in worship, programs, religious education, social occasions, and rites of passage. These churches engage in outreach to the b/g/l/t community, and offer support for union and memorial services. They celebrate the lives of all people and welcome same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships. They seek to nurture dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create a deeper trust and sharing. They attend to legislative developments and work to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society, speaking out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people are at stake.
The UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program is for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards b/g/l/t people. It consists of a series of workshops to reduce prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Understanding our prejudices leads to individual spiritual growth and congregational unity. Confronting our prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allowed us to explore their origins and offered an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge.
At the conclusion of this yearlong self-study process, the congregation votes on the question, “Will we apply to the UUA for designation as a Welcoming Congregation?” The members of the Prairie Lakes UU Fellowship voted to do so.
Why single out bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people? The Rev. Douglas Morgan Strong states: “For centuries, the church has been a leading force against sexual minorities. It is not surprising that gay people are reluctant to reach out to the very institution that oppresses them. Yet, gay, lesbian, [transgender], and bisexual people have no less need for warmth, caring, and affirmation than anyone else who calls the liberal church their religious home. In fact, as a subculture in society, gay, lesbian, [transgender], and bisexual people may need our support more than the general population.”