Renewing UUCPA as a Welcoming Congregation

UUCPA’s Welcoming Congregation team is delighted to share that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) recently certified our church’s annual renewal as a Welcoming Congregation for LGBTQ UUs! UUCPA has been a Welcoming Congregation since 1998, but only recently did the UUA call on churches to begin formally renewing their commitment annually.

What is the Welcoming Congregation Renewal program? What renewal actions did UUCPA take during the past year? And how can you help build a radically-welcoming community at UUCPA?

Read on!

What is the Welcoming Congregation Renewal program?

The UUA started the Welcoming Congregation program in 1990 to address then-widespread homophobia and exclusion of lesbian and gay people in UU spaces. UUCPA achieved Welcoming Congregation certification in 1998.

Originally, achieving Welcoming Congregation status was a one-shot deal: UU churches did not need to renew themselves regularly to maintain it. But the movement for LGBTQ rights and dignity evolved.

Today, for example, transgender and non-binary UUs struggle to find community in UU congregations. According to a 2019 report by TRUUsT, the organization of transgender UU religious professionals, only 28% of trans UUs feel their congregation is completely inclusive of them, and fewer than half feel spiritually nourished in their congregations. In addition, bisexual UUs often feel invisible, and the perspectives and truths of intersex, asexual, and polyamorous UUs are rarely lifted up.

Now, the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation Renewal program calls on churches to renew themselves and their certification annually, to grow with their LGBTQ communities and keep up with the evolving call of justice. It’s a chance to keep transforming ourselves and our understanding of Unitarian Universalism in a spirit of Beloved Community and radical welcome.

What renewal actions did UUCPA take during the past year?

Because UUCPA had already achieved Welcoming Congregations status previously, our process of renewal focused on other specific practices that the UUA calls on churches to undertake each year. During the past year:

  • UUCPA devoted three worship services during the past year to lifting up LGBTQ wisdom and themes. These included “How Change Happens” in June 2020 and “Making the Invisible Visible” in March 2021 (both led by our parish minister, the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern) and “Radical Welcome” in September 2020 (led by guest worship leader Zr. Alex Kapitan).
  • UUCPA observed six major LGBTQ dates and anniversaries: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Stonewall Riots Anniversary, National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and World AIDS Day.
  • UUCPA offered adult religious education classes devoted to welcoming and learning from transgender and non-binary UUs and making good on our promise to transform ourselves. In September 2020, 14% of our congregation attended an evening seminar, “Transgender Experience and Spirituality,” that drew from the 6-session course series Transgender Inclusion in Congregations, developed by the Transforming Hearts Collective. Then a group of 10–13 of us devoted ourselves to taking the full course series during the subsequent six months and engaged in deep, honest, and vulnerable conversations about gender and power at UUCPA.
  • UUCPA raised funds to support the important local work of Outlet, a project of Adolescent Counseling Services, as our Justice Partner in December 2020.

The actions just outlined were sufficient to achieve renewal of UUCPA’s status as a Welcoming Congregation—but we didn’t stop there. In addition:

  • UUCPA established all-gender restrooms in the church breezeway. Now, a single occupant of any gender can use the restroom privately, and anyone who needs assistance, whether child or adult, can use the restroom with the help of a caregiver, regardless of gender. We can do more: the current restroom signs in the breezeway can be improved, and UUCPA still does not offer all-gender restrooms in the main sanctuary. But the breezeway restrooms are a vital first step toward reconfiguring our physical facility for all people.
  • UUCPA conducted a demographic survey of members to provide greater insight into the diversity among us, including with regard to sexuality and gender, and to help us hold ourselves accountable for nourishing all.
  • We reaffirmed our commitment to inclusive and comprehensive sexuality education by safely offering the Our Whole Lives program to 7th–9th graders in an outdoor and socially-distanced manner, in keeping with all state and county expectations, despite the obstacles the COVID-19 pandemic put in our way.
  • We continued to cultivate the practice of sharing and considering pronouns in everyday church life. We’d already, prior to the pandemic, introduced pronoun stickers that members can choose to place on their nametags. More recently, Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern offered guidance on how we can share our pronouns during Zoom services and classes, and church leaders and committee members are beginning to note their pronouns on the UUCPA website.

How can you help build a radically-welcoming community at UUCPA?

As we work to build a radically-welcoming community, you can join in. Here are some ways:

  • Get involved!
    • Email to sign up for UUCPA’s Welcoming Congregation email list. This is the best way to stay up to date on UUCPA Welcoming events, actions, and ideas.
    • Interested in helping guide and document UUCPA’s Welcoming Renewal each year? Email to get involved!