Since our founding, nearly 150 years ago, we have been proclaiming we are a “house of worship for all people.” At the beginning, that was to make it clear that the church welcomed people of all denominations but through the years that commitment has grown to mean so much more.
Our doors and arms and hearts are open to everyone that God created and loves. Which is all of us. But we realize that many churches say that, yet don’t fully mean it. Too many LGBTQIA+ people have become involved in a church that said, “We’re open to all,” or “All are welcome,” only to discover that’s not completely true. That welcome included an agenda to “heal” you of your “sin” or “illness.” It didn’t include support for same sex marriages or queer pastors or Sunday School teachers. It didn’t mean you could comfortably hold hands with your partner in worship or that your children would feel like they belonged, exactly as they are, and taught that God’s love is profoundly inclusive. That lack of true openness and affirmation added to the harm too many folks have already experienced.
That’s why, even though we’ve had an inclusion statement here at Winnetka Congregational Church for years, and even though we’ve been blessed by LGBTQ people on our pastoral staff, four years ago we updated that statement and began a process of listening to our LGBTQIA+ members and pastors, and learning how to be more deeply inclusive of all, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation.
We’ve also begun to try to be more visible about our support of the LGBTQ community. So, every Sunday you’ll see the church staff wearing the colors of the pride flag on their name badge lanyards and pride flags displayed prominently out front. It’s a small gesture, but it matters – we want to make sure anyone who drives by our building or steps inside our doors gets the message loudly and clearly that we affirm God’s love of all of us, exactly as we are, no exceptions, no fine print, no hidden agendas.
To find out more about our work for LGBTQ inclusion at the church, within our Winnetka community and throughout the world, please contact Dawn Huntsman at firstname.lastname@example.org.