The Importance of an Extravagant Welcome


Cecile Gilson

2/8/2017

The young couple, two moms and an infant, began to show up for church on a somewhat regular basis. Over time they began to respond to words and of welcome and became more involved in the life of the church. Now they are engaged members with a delightful six-year-old. The shy young man started coming to church unsure of his welcome. Over time he began to feel comfortable and shared his story of transition. Welcomed with open arms into the church he began the process of healing. An older gay couple recently married after being in a committed relationship for thirty years. They did this with the reassurance that their church community would not turn them away for who they are as people.
 
These stories and many more can be heard at any one of our ninety Open and Affirming Churches here in Connecticut. Nationally the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ has recorded over 1400 congregations as Open and Affirming. In the last two weeks Connecticut has had five churches vote to support a radical and inclusive welcome to all our LGBTQ members and friends.
 
The Connecticut Conference has a rich history of being supportive on LGBTQ rights and inclusion since the 1989 vote to become an Open and Affirming Conference. Our first Open and Affirming Church, Shalom UCC in New Haven, voted to become ONA in 1989 and was the 27th church to be added to the entire list maintained by the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ. United Church on the Green in New Haven, First Church of Christ, Mansfield Center and Second Congregational Church, Coventry all followed quickly in 1990.
 
In 2004 the Annual Meeting voted in support of the civil right of marriage for same-sex couples. When Civil Unions were approved for same gender couples over 100 clergy signed up to be available to perform those services.
 
In 2012 the Connecticut Conference Annual Meeting added gender identity and gender expression to the Open and Affirming Covenant. This recognition of our trans friends was an important part of our process of extravagant welcome and inclusion.
 
If your church is currently engaged in conversation about becoming extravagantly welcoming or considering beginning the conversation about becoming an Open and Affirming congregation please let the Conference and your regional minister know. We are happy to pray for you on your journey, provide resources and lend a supportive ear and voice. Our website has resources as well as links to other sources. (http://www.ctucc.org/lgbtq) The Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC (https://openandaffirming.org/) has many more resources and has recently initiated a series of Webinars designed to support your ONA ministry. The next series is below.

You can register at http://www.uccresources.com/collections/ona-webinars-open-and-affirming-coalition-of-the-united-church-of-christ
 
It is more important than ever for us as people of God to welcome all into the safety and embrace of our church communities. Our LGBTQ friends are hungry for a place to worship just as they are, just as God created them. 
 



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