The spiritual practice of welcome should be integral to any faith community. It certainly is a very important one to our Unitarian Universalist faith. In the 1980s and 90s, the word “welcoming” became a code word for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, so the Unitarian Universalist Association launched a Welcoming Congregation Program to help us learn how to undo homophobia and later, transphobia (prejudice against transgender people) in our hearts, minds, congregations, and our communities. Yet as a newly minted minister in the early 2000’s I was faced with the silence of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in my very liberal Unitarian Universalist congregation. I am very fortunate that I was never taught to be homophobic, therefore I didn’t have to unlearn it. Yes, just like racism, it’s a learned behavior. Some of you may be familiar with the saying, “You are/always have been UU but didn’t know it”- well, after finding this denomination, I feel very strongly that my very mainstream Christian Black family was cut from liberal cloth, but just self-identified as Christian. Which is why I don’t recognize the actions and behaviors of the majority who identify as Christians today. But that’s a column for another time. Back to LGBTQIA community. I can never remember a time growing up when there wasn’t an individual in my community who didn’t identify as Queer. During my adult years close friends and associations were members of this community. One of my sons came out to my husband and me in his teens, and the only anxiety that we felt about that was fear for his safety. I was privileged to be officiate for the wedding of a granddaughter who identifies as Gay. Recently another grandchild came out as Queer. There were different reactions from the parents, one accepts, but doesn’t understand, the other questions whether this is a phase and will change in the future. I on the other hand feel the same way about the announcement as I did when my son came out fifty years ago, fear for their safety. Because today this community suffers as much or more in some cases as when they remained closeted or hidden in the shadows of community life. Because with as many changes as we have seen regarding equality in marriage, housing and employment, we all know there is always that segment of the population that feels like the affirmation and accomplishments of others somehow diminishes the quality of their particular life. As leader of this congregation, I don’t have the answer to every question that you may have, but I’ll tell you what I was taught in seminary, “I know where to find it.” It’s not the responsibility of people to explain who they are and what it feels like to be who they identify as, any more than it is to ask an individual to explain what it’s like to be Irish, Polish, Italian, or African. What’s important is to do the work, just as you do before voting for a political candidate or passing a bill. The Unitarian Universalist Association’s website is filled with information that includes a LGBTQIA Ministries, an office that is part of multicultural Growth and Witness. And Skinner House has many books written by people from that community. Being part of a faith community is sometimes challenging, but that means growing deeper in spirit for individual transformation.
Heart to Heart, Rev. Addae A. Kraba