Our Original Welcoming Congregation Program

By Bob Britton

It has been nearly 10 years since Starr King Church was certified as a Welcoming Congregation. Many of the members of that Welcoming Congregation Committee have moved out of the area, but we are looking forward to renewing our status as a congregation welcoming of LBGTQ people and their allies.

Back then we followed the Welcoming Congregation Handbook urging commitment, education and action to gain our certification. An attitude questionnaire of our congregation was our first action. It was designed to measure the way each congregant feels about bisexual, gay, lesbian and/or transgender people. We learned that while most believed they were accepting of LBGT people, others expressed discomfort with different hypothetical scenarios involving relationships to LBGT women and men in their personal and business lives.

We released the statistics of that survey and invited discussion on its findings. The congregation was invited to several different workshops we developed from the manual exploring themes such as Gender Socialization and Homophobia, Racism and Homophobia/Heterosexism, and Religion and Homosexuality. We held movie showings celebrating the lives, real and fictional, of homosexuals with the same goals and aspirations of heterosexuals.

When we were granted official recognition as a Welcoming Congregation, we celebrated our status with a Sunday service designed and presented by our committee. During that service we hung the Rainbow Gay Pride Flag that still hangs at the back of our sanctuary. Since that time, several first time visitors have expressed feelings of safety and welcome upon seeing our Rainbow.

Back then our Welcoming Congregation Committee was broad based with gay and straight men, lesbian and straight women from a variety of age groups and religious and cultural backgrounds. Some people may wonder why we would single out bisexuals and homosexuals for welcoming to our congregation. Isn’t our goal to be welcoming to everyone? Shouldn’t we be welcoming to people of color, of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds? Yes we should and yes we are! But churches as a whole in America are the most anti-homosexual of our institutions. Violence against homosexuals is often justified by religious convictions. As Unitarian Universalists we feel we must express our religious conviction to stand on the side of love.