From the Widening Our Vision (WOV) Team…
Our Journey to Becoming Open and Affirming
The Widening Our Vision team thanks those of you who responded to the exploratory survey. The results indicated to us that the vast majority of members support becoming an Open and Affirming church, but there are still a number of members who are not yet ‘on board.’ The WOV team especially appreciates those respondents who took the time to express their concerns about ONA, giving us the opportunity to ‘listen’, consider, and offer an Open Forum/Discussion (details on next page) prior to the congregational meeting and vote on Sunday, June 12. You can also find information below that addresses some of the issues that surfaced on respondents’ surveys.
Some Concerns Raised and WOV’s Response…
ONA is a LABEL — ONA (Open and Affirming) is not a label, but a status with certification guaranteeing that the congregation has gone through a process of committing itself as a body to creating and maintaining a safe place for people who have felt very unsafe in churches. Congregations with ONA status explicitly commit themselves to ongoing work of understanding and welcoming the presence of all perspectives, including minority experiences and points of view. Rainbow flags: they’re divisive symbols — We should not refuse to use a symbol that was designed to, and still does, signify a celebration of diversity and a place of sanctuary for some simply because it has been appropriated and re-cast by others to be a fearful political symbol. We’ll lose people if we become ONA — We will also lose people if we don’t. Becoming ONA will commit us to deepening our understanding of the ways we’re not yet as welcoming as we could be, and commit us to doing what it takes to further embody that wide-open welcome of all God’s beloved. ONA is divisive and excludes people with different opinions about political matters — The point of becoming Open and Affirming is that the congregation commits to learning and practicing how—with the power of Christ Jesus at work in us—we are able to welcome, engage, and even love people who are very different from ourself. The point is not to practice divisiveness, but to recognize that the world is divisive and hateful, and the Church needs to be wise in our commitment to welcome—though part of that wisdom includes a recognition that not everyone will appreciate what we’re doing. Jesus did not shrink from doing things that the religious establishment deemed divisive–in particular, openly associating with ostracized communities and individuals (e.g., Zacchaeus and tax collectors, one characterized as a prostitute, lepers).
What changes will ONA status make to our church??
What will happen when we become Open and Affirming:
- We will be certified as an Open and Affirming church, joining 57 other UCC churches in our New Hampshire conference. ONA designation is a status that lets people know our church will be safe and welcoming to all.
- We will add indications of our ONA status to existing signs outside our building. Mock-ups of proposed changes will be available for viewing at the Open Forum on June 5 and at the congregational meeting on June 12.
- We will add our ONA status to our web site so that anyone looking for a church to call home will know that they will be welcome.
What will NOT happen when we become Open and Affirming:
- We will NOT be flying a giant rainbow flag or painting the pillars at the front door in rainbow stripes!
- We will NOT be changing our worship service. Tanya already uses inclusive language during worship. The traditional pieces of our worship (e.g., Call to Worship, Assurance of Pardon, Doxology, Gloria Patri, Common Commission) will continue to be part of our service.
- We will NOT get new hymnals. Our hymnal already uses inclusive language and contains a mix of both traditional and newer hymns.
- We will NOT get new pew Bibles.
- We will NOT change the Sunday School curriculum. Tanya sent these words to parents of Sunday School students, but they are important for everyone to read: “For those of you wondering whether the move to become ONA will change anything about our curriculum or what and how we teach our children, please be assured that it will NOT. Our message has always been, and will continue to be, that as followers of Jesus Christ–as those striving to love others as openly and fearlessly as he did, we affirm every individual for who they are; we honor and celebrate diversity and will practice caring for every individual with the strong love of God regardless of how they may differ from ourself.”
So, what difference will adopting our ONA covenant make?
Throughout the past year, a number of church members have shared their personal stories — adult children or siblings who are LGBTQ+ folks, a teenage child who is gender fluid, other teens who are questioning or coming out, an adult son transitioning to become a woman, a family member who left our church due to condemnation of who he is. Our ONA covenant will make a difference to them and to ALL of us. After all, becoming ONA is really just a recommitment to what we’ve been saying all along ~ No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
Join us for these two important events…
Sunday, June 5: WOV Open Forum & Discussion
Join us for a free-form discussion about the Open and Affirming process and what it means for our church. Our Welcome Statement has been ‘trimmed down’ based on suggestions received by survey respondents and will be available for perusal. We will have mock-ups of exterior signs with possible minor changes to indicate Open & Affirming status (Many thanks to Randy Forgaard!) for you to see and offer comments. Come with your questions!
Sunday, June 12: Congregational Meeting and Vote
To the members of the Congregational Church of Hollis, New Hampshire, (United Church of Christ) qualified to vote in Church affairs: You are hereby notified to meet, either in person in said Hollis, New Hampshire, or virtually in the Church Zoom link which will be provided, on Sunday, June 12, 2022, at 10:45 a.m. to consider the following article: Article 1: To see if the congregation will accept the Welcome Statement as our church’s Open and Affirming (ONA) covenant, allowing our church to be certified as an Open and Affirming church of the United Church of Christ. Welcome Statement “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7 We, the members of the Congregational Church of Hollis, United Church of Christ, believe that all people are created in God’s image and are loved, valued, and blessed by God. Understanding that repression and discrimination of any kind is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are committed to the on-going work of inclusivity and discovering ways to live out our support and respect for all of God’s beloved children. This community of faith is an Open and Affirming congregation which welcomes persons of all races, ethnic backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, physical and mental abilities, family structure, marital status, and socio-economic background. All are invited to fully share and participate in all aspects of our church life and leadership. For no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.