Towanda Universalist Unitarian Fellowship

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Towanda Universalist Unitarian Fellowship: Welcoming Congregation Status

Towanda Universalist Unitarian Fellowship is pleased to have received Welcoming Congregation certification status from The Unitarian Universalist Association. Congregations define themselves as welcoming in many different ways , so what does this mean for Unitarian Universalists?

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a volunteer program for Unitarian Universalist congregations that want to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people with marginalized sexual orientation and gender identities. We welcome people of all races, ages, and previous religious convictions.

First launched in 1990 the program grew out of an understanding that widespread prejudices and ignorance about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people existed within Unitarian Universalism, which resulted in the exclusion of LGBT people from our congregations. Today 66% of U.S. U. U. congregations and 94% of Canadian congregations are recognized as Welcoming Congregations. This is due to the storied time line which can be traced from steps taken beginning 1967 which included resolution, funding , organizing, and publication of a handbook to be used as resource material.

In 2014 the Welcoming Congregation Program celebrated its 25th anniversary. The world has changed drastically since the program was conceived in 1989. Today 95% of large congregations and over 50% of small congregations have been recognized as Welcoming Congregations. Today, congregations are encouraged to access web resources and design a program that is customized to fit its needs as a congregation.

Eighteen months ago, Towanda U.U. Fellowship began to examine what welcoming , hospitality and inclusion mean. Alice Hardenburg and Marsha Lewis approached the board and subsequently, the congregation, to pursue obtaining welcoming status. All were 100% on board to put belief in" loving ones neighbor as oneself" into action. We began by revising our by-laws.

We were challenged to eradicate dualism from our language and our understanding of the world, using terms that encompass all genders rather than only two. We learned about Pennsylvania 's laws that discriminate around employment, housing ,credit and public accommodations.

To further understand this, we invited a panel of diverse individuals to come share their stories, to challenge our stereotypes and misconceptions. They openly discussed the realities of their lived experience and willingly answered our questions. We learned how myths can be damaging and replaced them with truths and what the LGBT community needs from us.

We hosted EqualityPa. as a community event several times over the past year. We have held two worship services with the theme being Standing on the Side of Love. When we stand on the side of love we demonstrate courageous love. Our vestibule welcomes everyone who enters with a rainbow flag, and our standing on the side of banner clearly states that our sanctuary is a sanctuary for all worshippers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender preference.

Rev. Darcey Laine of Athens Unitarian Universalist Church was invited to preach a stirring and inspiring sermon, Coming Out. This was in conjunction with a Ritual of Remembrance. Transgender Day of Remembrance is celebrated around the world each year on November 20. Candles are lit for victims of violence. Candles are lit in hope that someday no one will be afraid to live authentically. Peg Chamberlain planned a World's Aid day program.

Unitarian Universalism is a caring open minded faith community. We gather to nurture our spirits and put faith into action by helping to make our world a better place. Our congregation exists to extend a warm welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individual and families. We want to promote acceptance, inclusion understanding and equity for all LGBT persons. We are committed to protecting the civil and legal rights of LGBT people. No matter who you are , you are welcome here.!

In April we plan to open our doors to a gay/straight alliance . The group will meet at 5:30 in the evening.
Call Jean at 744-2823 for more information.