The Welcoming Congregation program is a completely voluntary program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people.
In 1987, the Unitarian Universalist Association, or UUA, established the Common Vision Planning Committee that found many negative attitudes, prejudices, and ignorance about bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people, which resulted in the exclusion of these populations from their congregations. As a result, the delegates of the 1989 UUA General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to initiate the Welcoming Congregation program to educate its members. Each Unitarian Universalist congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to individuals and congregations.
In 1990, the Welcoming Congregation Committee formed at the Unitarian Society with several gay and straight members and used the UUA curriculum to experience emotional and informational monthly workshops over a year. This group of 15 people then presented the congregation with actions they felt were implicit in the general goals of a Welcoming Congregation, including acknowledging the presence of those of different sexual orientations; addressing the needs of those people and giving them support; incorporating their experiencs in all dimensions of congregational life; and celebrating and affirming their lives. The specific actions to implement these goals included reviewing religious education for children and adults to promote diversity; having liaisons for each grade level to promote diversity; and placing announcements in gay publications informing readers that they are welcome.
After much sharing, discussion, and growth over the years, the congregation voted to officially become a Welcoming Congregation in 1995. We have since become an integrated community with many from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender communities playing central roles, ranging from President of the Board of Trustees to religious education teachers. The community also has an active Gay Rights Task Force and celebrates civil unions. All singles, couples, and families continue to enjoy the community, feeling welcome to be their whole selves in this religious community.