“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
THE INCEPTION OF WIDENING OUR VISION
The Widening Our Vision (WoV) team was formed in the spring of 2021, with the blessing of the Church Council, to explore becoming an Open and Affirming church. We were prompted to undertake this effort by a newer deacon who was familiar with other Open and Affirming churches. When she inquired whether our Congregational Church of Hollis was an Open and Affirming church, she was told: “Yes, we voted to permit same gender marriage ceremonies in the church in 2010.” But that is not the same thing as being an Open and Affirming Church. And the more of us who learned that, the more of us there were who wanted to be part of an effort to help the Congregational Church of Hollis become an Open and Affirming Church.
WHAT, EXACTLY, IS OPEN AND AFFIRMING?
Open and Affirming (often abbreviated as “ONA”) is a specific designation of the United Church of Christ for congregations that have made a public covenant, and declaration of welcome into their full life and ministry, to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. The ONA designation reflects a history of faithful witness for LGBTQIA+ rights within the UCC, including the Open and Affirming action of the General Synod in 1985, and the Transgender action of the General Synod in 2003. It reflects a spirit of hospitality, a commitment to full inclusion and human rights, and a willingness to live out that “Welcome” in meaningful ways. It is consistent with the Welcome pillar of our strategic plan.
The WoV team has three goals:
- Near term – Lead the Congregation on a journey of conversation, exploration, and discovery in a process of graceful engagement: meeting people where they are; listening more than speaking; striving to understand each other and our beliefs; working together in compassion and community.
- Medium term – Have the Congregation vote to adopt a Welcoming Statement and declare our Church as Open and Affirming.
- Long term – Have the Church maintain ongoing education and relationship-building as we continue to learn and discover what it means to be a Welcoming Congregation for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
- March 2021 – Church Council approved formation of Open & Affirming (ONA) task force
- April 2021 – Call for interested individuals to join ONA task force
- June 2021 – ONA core team first meeting; work begins using Building an Inclusive Church toolkit
- Aug 2021 – ONA team meets with director of UCC Open & Affirming Coalition for ONA guidance
- Sept 2021 – ONA team renamed to Widening Our Vision; creates document: purpose, rationale, goals
- Oct 2021 – shared the WOV document at meetings with each church board and requested feedback
- Nov 2021 – introduced WOV to the congregation in church
- Nov 2021 – met with reps from other churches that recently completed the ONA process for guidance
- Dec 2021 – introduced WOV in Chimes newsletter and initiate series of monthly articles
- Jan 2022 – added Widening Our Vision information and resources to our web site
- April 2022 – offered a three-part speaker series (culminating on May 1)
- April 2022 – introduced our Welcome Statement (ONA Covenant) on Easter Sunday
- May 2022 – administered exploratory survey of congregation to gauge support of the proposed Welcome Statement
- June 5, 2022 – held open discussion forum with congregation to further address any concerns and present final Welcome Statement and proposed signage changes
- June 12, 2022- special congregational meeting held for final vote to become Open and Affirming
- June 28, 2022 – received certification of Open and Affirming status from the Open and Affirming Coalition, United Church of Christ
The WOV team extends heartfelt thanks to all who supported our journey to becoming an ONA church!
Rev Tanya Rasmussen