An LGBTQ Welcoming Congregation
We are a Welcoming Congregation, recognized by the Unitarian Universalist Association. This means we affirm and include people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer at every level of congregational life—in worship, in program, and in social occasions—welcoming them as whole people.
As a Welcoming Congregation we have pledged to:
- honor the lives of all people and equally affirm displays of caring and affection without regard for sexual orientation.
- celebrate diversity by using inclusive language and content in worship.
- incorporate an understanding of the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons throughout all of our programs, including religious education.
- affirm and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues and history.
- affirm marriage equality and conduct same-sex weddings.
- advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, promoting justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society. We speak out when the rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are at stake.
We recognize that there’s always something more to learn, and remain open to deepening our understanding about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.
The Pocatello Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was officially recognized by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as a Welcoming Congregation in August 2011. Evidence points to churches as the most anti-homosexual institutions in America, and much of the justification used to promote anti-homosexual feelings, legislation, and violence is couched in “religious” language. It is difficult for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) people to feel safe bringing their whole selves into churches. Because the first principle of Unitarian Universalism recognizes “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” the Pocatello UU Fellowship welcomes all, and in fact, we state this at the beginning of each service. However, official recognition as a Welcoming Congregation allows us to open our fellowship as a safe space for LGBTQ persons, compels us to take positions on oppression in our larger communities, and to engage in community outreach.
In order to receive the Welcoming Congregation designation, we utilized the educational material provided by the UUA. The educational process gave us the opportunity to examine our own biases and move toward more inclusive attitudes and behavior. In addition, we completed specific steps in the areas of congregational life and community outreach. Some of these activities included:
We held a retreat facilitated by Rev. Michael Corrigan of the UU Church of Greely, CO. Rev. Corrigan provided members of the PUUF congregation a wealth of information about becoming an official Welcoming Congregation and thoughtfully addressed a number of questions and concerns raised by the retreat participants. A task force of three volunteered to explore the process further and to acquire a congregation-wide agreement to proceed. To that end, an educational pamphlet was developed and sent to all PUUF members and friends. During the 2009 Annual Meeting of PUUF, the congregation voted to initiate efforts to be recognized by the UUA as an official Welcoming Congregation and a committee of five was formed to plan and organize the process. A WC “kick-off” workshop, facilitated by Rev. Lyn Cameron of Idaho Falls, focused on our attitudes toward LGBT people. A worship service with visiting Minister Rev. Cameron celebrated the National Day of Coming Out. A questionnaire was sent to all PUUF members of the congregation. The questionnaire, acquired from the Welcoming Congregation Handbook, gauged the way we feel about LGBT people. Completed questionnaires were received from 31 PUUF members and the results suggested we are generally comfortable around and accepting of LGBT people.
We incorporated inclusive language and content as a regular part of our worship services and adjusted our bylaws to recognize our affirmation of LBGTQ persons and nondiscrimination in all aspects of congregational life. A panel-lead discussion was held that included H. Wayne Schow who lost a son to AIDS, Emilie Jackson-Edney, who is trangendered, and Derrick Capson who coordinated the local Genesis Project. From diverse perspectives, they shared their personal experiences and hopes for the future. Approximately 25 members and friends attended the discussion. During the first worship service in April, the Old Town Actors Studio presented a selection of the play, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. A workshop with visiting minister Todd Strickland addressed how individuals and congregations can be allies to the LGBT community. PUUF members participated in a gay rights march in Ogden, UT to support passage of the City’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
PUUF Consulting Minister, Rev. Lora Brandis, delivered a “Welcome Service” to assist the fellowship in welcoming people of different stripes and to end hate, prejudice and discrimination in our community. Rev. Brandis facilitated a workshop on racism, religion and homosexuality. PUUF’s Adult Religious Exploration (ARE) program presented the documentary, 8: The Mormon Proposition. A sizable contingent of PUUF members attended the full production of The Laramie Project at Old Town Actor’s Studio. Several PUUF members helped to organize 2Great4Hate, a new organization with a mission to promote love and acceptance throughout our community. PUUF presented Muriel Roberts with the “Love Award” for standing on the side of love and justice. PUUF members and friends participated in a 2Great4Hate rally in Pocatello to demonstrate our support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho’s anti-discrimination statute. John Schroeder, PA-C, Assistant Professor from ISU facilitated a workshop on sexual orientation and differentiation. We purchased a space at Pocatello Pride and distributed information about our Fellowship. A vote was put before the PUUF membership in affirmation of our commitment to becoming a Welcoming Congregation. The steps taken and our vote were communicated to the UUA for official recognition.