Welcoming Committee:

May has been a busy month for the Welcoming Congregation Committee. On May 19 the Committee held its annual LGBTQ-themed Movie Night. The Committee has chosen to hold this event on the Friday or Saturday closest to May 17/May 22 because May 17 is the anniversary of Marriage Equality becoming legal in the state and is also International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. This year we showed the movie Pride, highly recommended by one of our youth. The story of an unlikely alliance between a group of LGBTQ activists in the UK who decided to support a miners’ strike. It was a very good movie. The Committee found the movie particularly appropriate since it was also an early example of the worldview that sees the benefits of people from separate communities organized around narrow concerns coming together in support of mutual interests, much as Black Lives Matter, the Occupy movement, the Women’s March, and some environmentalists have advocated in recent times. It also exemplifies the inclusive approach that’s consistent with being a Welcoming Congregation. On May 21, the Committee hosted Social Hour in honor of Harvey Milk, whose birthday was May 22. Harvey Milk was the first nationally recognized openly gay politician, one who was early to see the benefits of cooperation among various diverse interest groups; he too created an alliance between unions and the gay community. The Committee is grateful to the R E Council for switching Social Hour dates with us so that we could continue this annual commitment. The Committee has been tabling to sign people up to participate in the Boston Pride Parade. The Parade is always held on the second Saturday of June, which this year falls on June 10. June 10 just happens to be the tenth anniversary of the vote that made First Parish a Welcoming Congregation, so the Committee thinks it’s a great way to celebrate that anniversary. Warren Flewellen is again one of our two required Marshals. Warren Flewellen has worked hard to pull together a float after we lost access to the trailer we used to use; the float is an important part of our participation because it allows us to share some of our musical talent with the community and it allows the mobility-challenged in our congregation to participate with the marchers. We are grateful to Cheryl Wilson, who has stepped forward as our second Marshal, replacing Tim O’Hara, for whose several years’ service as Marshal we are also grateful. Finally, the Committee has been actively talking to people to pull together a team to work on renewing the church’s Welcoming Congregation designation. The UUA recommends that churches that have been recognized as Welcoming for more than five years apply for renewal of the designation. They recommend this partly because the LGBTQ world is constantly changing. When this church became Welcoming, the label for the community it was learning to be welcoming to LGBT. Since then, the label has changed to LGBTQ or LGBTQIA+. The UUA also makes the recommendation as a way to make people who have joined the congregation since the Welcoming Congregation vote can be made aware of what the church’s commitment to being Welcoming means. The intention is to pull together six to eight people who represent a cross section of the congregation, from among new members, long-time members, seniors, youth, families, LGBTQ and heterosexual, Committee members and other interested members. Over a span of six to eight meetings, the Team will examine what the church committed to when it became Welcoming, consider how it could be more welcoming, and make recommendations to the Standing Committee. Our last piece of news is that our leadership, and therefore the organization of the Committee, is changing. Warren Flewellen is stepping down as Chair of the Committee after several years of service. We are grateful to Warren for his leadership but recognize that it is time for him to step back from such intense involvement. He promises that he will continue to be involved with the Committee, with the renewal of our Welcoming Congregation designation, and with our Pride activities. Since none of our members is able to serve as sole chair, we have discussed possible co-chairs (still to be confirmed) to fulfill church chair administrative functions (budget, signing off on expenses, Church Council, calendar, etc.) and encourage different members to take responsibility for specific events and Committee meetings related to those events. The Committee has functioned this way in the past at times. Dee Halzack will continue to be involved with organizing our TDOR vigil and our advocacy efforts. Frances Killam has volunteered to organize our annual Book Discussion.   Respectfully submitted, Dee Halzack