Welcoming Congregation Application
Here is the application submitted by UCM to the UUA
June 1, 2013
Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
On April 26, 2011 the Executive Committee of the Unitarian Church of Montpelier (UCM) created the Welcoming Congregation Task Force (WCTF). The task force was charged with completing the work recommended by the UUA to achieve the official UUA Welcoming Congregation designation. After two years, the WCTF received authorization from the congregation via a unanimous voice vote on May 19, 2013 to submit the following Welcoming Congregation application to the UUA. Thank you for your review and please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to your response.
1. Offer religious education for people of all ages that incorporates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer life issues.
UCM offers religious education that incorporates LGBTQ issues through UUA curricula such as OWL and through the Welcoming Congregation initiative.
2. Promote participation by congregational leaders, including the minister, religious education director, president, moderator, and board members in the Welcoming Congregation Program.
The WCTF encouraged participation by all members of the church community, including leaders. The minister and a liaison to the Council of Chairs were kept informed of WCTF work. A large part of one of the quarterly meetings of the Council of Chairs this year was devoted to a discussion of UCM’s Welcoming Congregation work.
3. As part of the Welcoming Congregation Program, offer congregation-wide educational opportunities (such as a workshop series), with follow-up opportunities for study and reflection.
During the September 2010 to June 2011 church year, members of the congregation took advantage of opportunities to gather to watch LGBTQ–themed films and then discuss them. In addition, congregants were invited to read Jenny Boylan’s memoir She’s Not There and then participate in a group discussion of the book. In the September 2011 through June 2012 church year, the WCTF held an eight-session workshop series.
The WCTF is gathering a mini-library of LGBTQ books and is loaning them to interested people during coffee hour. Solicitations for books are made from the pulpit and via the e-newsletter.
Plans are in place to collaborate with the local library (Kellogg-Hubbard) for a book discussion series. For the first year of the series, four books will be chosen and facilitated discussions will be held quarterly beginning in November, 2013.
4. Use the Unitarian Universalist sexuality education program Our Whole Lives.
UCM is currently offering the OWL curriculum to four different age groups. Last August, UCM hosted a district training weekend for K-1 and 4-6 OWL at which 10 UCM members and friends became OWL-trained. In addition, at least seven others have been trained as OWL teachers/leaders.
1. Form a broad-based Welcoming Congregation committee to design and offer programming and monitor progress.
The work of the Welcoming Congregation Task Force ends with the submission of this application. If the designation is awarded, a Welcoming Congregation Committee will be formed to continue to guide UCM in becoming ever more welcoming.
2. Adjust congregational bylaws and other relevant documents to include an affirmative nondiscrimination clause concerning membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
Bylaw language in use at other UU congregations was researched and considered. Best options were selected by the WCTF and forwarded to the UCM Bylaws Sub-Committee. The WCTF confirmed that UCM has a nondiscrimination clause in the membership section of the current bylaws.
3. Use inclusive language and content as a regular part of worship services, and provide worship coordinators and speakers with guidelines on inclusive language.
UCM recently requested “inclusive language” guidelines from the UUA and was advised to create guidelines appropriate for UCM. The Welcoming Congregation Committee will undertake the creation of these guidelines. In our current practice, the minister and worship staff are aware and take care to use inclusive language during services. For example, the members of the congregation are invited to sing parts for “high and low voices” rather than for “women and men.”
4. For members and members’ families, provide main worship space and ministerial services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rites of passage, such as services of union, dedications of children, and gender-affirming ceremonies.
UCM has a long history of offering its worship space and ministerial services for LGBTQ rites of passage. In fact, the current WCTF chair had UCM’s minister Maggie Rebmann officiate at her civil union in August 2000 and UCM’s minister Mara Dowdall officiate at her wedding in August 2010. Commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples were offered prior to the availability of civil unions.
5. Welcome people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer in places such as the congregation’s website, brochure, and orders of service.
The WCTF determined that the current UCM brochure doesn’t have inclusive language. The Membership Committee revised the brochure to make a number of changes, including the addition of inclusive language. The WCTF believes that the language in the current Order of Service is welcoming and doesn’t require any changes.
The WCTF added a page to the church’s web site (www.unitarianchurchofmontpelier.org) explaining the WC designation and why it’s important to attain it.
During coffee hour, members and friends of the church have been offered the chance to express their support for the LGBTQ community by affixing a rainbow-colored triangle to their nametags. Many nametags now sport these stickers. The WCTF has a display table during coffee hour with many LGBTQ Ministries brochures that are available at no charge.
6. Ensure that publications, public information, and programming reflect the requested status of all individuals as they see appropriate; recognize same-gender couples and transgender individuals in directories and other publications as they desire.
UCM recognizes same-gender couples and transgender individuals in the church directory as they desire.
1. Celebrate and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues and history during the church year (possible options include Pride, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and National Coming Out Day).
UCM’s Worship and Arts Committee has expressed a willingness to mark National Coming Out Day (Friday, October 11) and National Transgender Day of Remembrance (Wednesday, November 20) in some manner in worship services that occur near these dates. The WCTF has requested that each church year feature one LGBTQ-themed service. The Worship and Arts Committee is considering this request and will announce its plan for 2013-2014 services in the summer.
2. Participate in and/or support efforts to create justice, freedom, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the larger society.
Members of UCM gathered in Burlington, VT last year to march in the annual Pride parade. We have plans to march in the September 2013 parade, too, and hope to gather a larger number of marchers.
UCM offers free space twice per month for meetings of a gay youth group sponsored by a statewide nonprofit organization called Outright VT. Three members of the UCM community have been trained to serve as volunteer facilitators at these youth group gatherings.
UCM members have designed a church banner featuring the phrase “We Welcome All” with a rainbow-colored flame. Congregants plan to walk behind the banner for the first time in Montpelier’s Fourth of July parade, an event that brings more people to the city each year than any other event. UCM will be the first church to march in this particular parade.
3. For members of your congregation’s larger community, provide main worship space and ministerial services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rites of passage, such as services of union, dedications of children, and gender-affirming ceremonies.
At the urging of the WCTF, UCM has ordered a new sign for the front of the church, which will include a rainbow bar. This bar will be a clear signal that Montpelier’s UU church is welcoming to LGBTQ people.
The WCTF is pleased that UCM includes same-sex couples (with or without children) among those invited forward each Sunday to be introduced and to light the chalice.
4. Establish and maintain contact with local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer groups and organizations, to build relationships, offer support in whatever ways are needed, and promote dialogue and interaction.
The WCTF conducted outreach to every LGBTQ group it could find in Vermont. A total of 14 groups were contacted and notified that UCM is a welcoming congregation. All groups were encouraged to check out UCM’s web site and services. The groups included: VT Cares, RU12, Outright VT, People With Aids, VT Freedom to Marry, Gay VT Social Alternatives, VT Rainbow Connection, Samara, League of Gays, Women’s Pride Social Club, House of LeMay, GLAM, Interweave, and Chiltern Mountain Club. Responses were received from RU12, VT Freedom to Marry, Samara, VT Cares, and Outright. Most responding groups said that they would include UCM on their website. In the fall, the WCTF plans to contact the 23 colleges and universities in Vermont with a similar message.
The WCTF contacted the Social Responsibility Committee (SRC) and asked if Outright VT, a gay youth advocacy group, could be a recipient of the Sunday pouch proceeds. Outright VT will receive a portion of the monies received during the June 9, 2013 collection. In addition, Outright VT will be considered by the SRC to be a recipient of pouch monies for an entire month in the 2013-2014 church year.
5. Advertise in the local press and/or other media that reaches lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities.
All individuals affiliated with UCM who can officiate at weddings are listed on the Vermont Freedom to Marry website’s Resources Page.
6. Provide use of building space when requested by members for programs and meetings of groups such as an Interweave (Unitarian Universalists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns) chapter, and also provide use of building space when requested by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community groups.
Three members of the UCM community volunteered to be trained by Outright VT as facilitators for a Montpelier “Friday Night Group” for LGBTQ youth. Friday Night Group (FNG) is held regularly in Burlington and Rutland, VT. The Montpelier group was suspended over a year ago due to a lack of adult facilitators. Although it initially appeared that the group would not get off the ground due to a funding cut experienced by Outright, the volunteers came together to secure a donation of space as well as donated pizza and soft drinks. UCM stepped up and offered space twice per month for Outright at no charge, thus giving a clear indication that the congregation is serious about its desire to be welcoming. FNG in Montpelier was re-launched on 2/8/13.
Additional programming UCM has offered:
Community Read: As noted previously, plans are in place to collaborate with the local library (Kellogg-Hubbard) for a book discussion series on LGBTQ themes. For the first year of the series, four books will be chosen and facilitated discussions will be held quarterly beginning in November 2013.
Plans for continuing this work into the future:
A newly organized Welcoming Congregation Committee will continue to encourage church members and friends to be welcoming to all through worship services, religious education, special programs, and social activities.