TIME FOR ALL AGES A Name on a Quilt Jeannine Atkins, adapted
REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE WE’VE LOST TO AIDS
It is right to remember the names of those who lost their lives to this terrible disease. Let us hold these names of men who were loved by people like us and who are loved still. After each name is read, I will like a candle and we will respond, “We remember him.”
Brothers, Dean & Craig Duke
HOMILY “The Wider Welcome” Rev. Maddie Sifantus
Way back in the 80s I can remember going to a Boston Bruins game with my son Nigel. At the time the team had a player named Nevin Markwart. I can still remember him skating down the right wing with his long blond hair flowing out behind him in those days when not everyone wore helmets. And I can remember a man behind me screaming out, “You faggot!” ostensibly just because he was different, because he had long hair in a hockey uniform. At that same time, one of the women I was singing with—and am still singing with in my band back East—was coming out. It got me thinking about what it might be like to be sitting in those stands in Boston Garden hearing that epithet if you were gay. What would it be like for Sally to hear those homophobic words? It was that moment that prompted me to attend a workshop at General Assembly that summer in 1990 and bring back the Welcoming Congregation to my home congregation.
The Welcoming Congregation Program was officially launched in 1990 to address widespread homophobia and the exclusion of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people within Unitarian Universalism, and religion writ large. In hopes of fully living into our UU beliefs and principles, namely “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,” the Welcoming Congregations program was instituted. Since then, the UUA has approved more than 800 congregations, including ours, as official Welcoming Congregations. In recent years, having won the fight for marriage equality in 2015, it had seemed to many as if the work of LGBTQ+ welcome in the UUA had been complete. While many lesbian and gay Unitarian Universalists may have experienced full inclusion, bisexuals continue to struggle for visibility. Likewise, the transgender community is fighting for viability and inclusion in a faith lauded as radically inclusive, especially important this month when the Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs on the 20th. These harsh realities reveal that we are not as “Welcoming” as we think we are.
Our congregation kicked off its Welcoming Congregation program in 2001, chaired by Jerry Grey, which resulted in the earning of our Welcoming Congregation status. The intention had been to renew our status. The time has now come! The renewal goal is, “To honor your original pledge, it’s essential that new people in the congregation understand your congregation’s commitment to this work and to the people who were originally involved in the program, and learn about the current needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ people.” Over the past three years, the UUA has renewed 18 of our 800 Welcoming Congregations. It is now time for us to revisit the Welcoming Congregation and achieve Renewal Status.
There is a new Welcoming Congregation program we will be using, the Five Pillars of Welcome Renewal. In 2018, we wish to be bolder and wider with our Welcome. We are called into a deeper commitment to ensure that our Unitarian Universalist congregations are living into the Wider Welcome that we boldly proclaim. As such, the UUA is unveiling The Five Pillars of Welcome Renewal. On this day when we remember those lost to AIDS, and we honor activists like Neil and Keith who keep the issues related to AIDs in the public eye, I am committing to work with this congregation to renew our status so that our welcome is as wide as possible here in Santa Paula. Please let me know if you are interested and willing to work with me on this effort which is foundational to our First Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
May love guide us. Blessed be.