Open and Affirming
September 18, 2022
By, Linda Fisher, ONA Team Leader
I am delighted to announce that on September 18, 2022 our congregation declared itself to be an Open and Affirming Church at a special congregational meeting called by the church council.
Our welcoming journey started back in 2019, when our Vitality Team spent many months trying to discern who we were as a community and what God wanted us to be. This resulted in the development and approval of a new vision statement in 2020 that included the words: “providing….inclusive safe space.” In July 2021, the Vitality Team called for volunteers to discern just how do we do that. That team formed and at the first meeting found that United Church of Christ had an Open and affirming (ONA) process that we could explore and decide if it was right for us.
From that initial meeting, a group of 16 interested, prayerful people, both members and non- members, set out to learn how to be inclusive. We identified early on that, entering into an ONA covenant as not to be taken lightly, and that taking this path needed to have the support from the majority of our congregation. We kept in mind that the outcome was not certain, but that Jesus would guide us.
Milestones along the Journey
- Jesus was a storyteller so we started with ourselves. We used a meeting to share our life experiences and why we wanted to be part of this team. The power of what we had to say motivated us to continue.
- The results from a congregational questionnaire encouraged our team to embark on a detailed study of exactly what LBGTQ means and how to increase our sensitivity as to what makes for a welcoming church.
- We then turned back to the congregation to share our experiences by providing readings and individual stories during multiple services.
- Our next step was to survey the congregation as to their educational needs. This resulted in the creation of an FAQ to address questions. We also offered 1:1 and group discussions as requested.
The ONA Covenant
From the milestones, we discerned that the congregation was perpared to continue on the ONA path. So we moved forward. In order to become an ONA church, our next step was to develop and approve a statement that publicly welcomes the LBGTQ+ community to our congregation as fellow children of God.
Our ONA Statement
Jesus didn't turn anyone away, and neither do we.
As an Open & Affirming church, Atkinson Congregational Church, the Light on the Hill, makes a public covenant to celebrate and welcome people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. We uphold the dignity and worth of each person and of families in all their diverse forms. All are welcome to participate in the full life and ministry of our congregation and to worship alongside us as we grow together in faith.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
I am humbled by the energy and commitment to inclusiveness shown by the members of this church.
About Open and Affirming
Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.