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Ogden Unitarian Universalists Reach Out to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth
The first episode of the Unitarian Universalist Association video series "A Religion for Our Time" features the Ogden OUTreach Center, the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Ogden’s drop-in program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and young adults.
Download Episode One (MP4) (right-click to save the file).
Rev. Peter Morales: Hello. I'm Peter Morales, president of the UUA. One of the things about our movement that truly inspires me is how so many of our congregations come up with creative, powerful, and really exciting projects and programs. So let's share them. We're asking congregations to show us some of the special things they do in all kinds of areas—worship, religious education, social justice, membership, and fellowship. I hope that when you see your fellow UU's in action, you'll be inspired to try some new things at your congregation too. Let's help one another be the religion for our time.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the UU church in Ogden, Utah saves lives. When the members held a visioning session to choose a social justice project in 2004, they decided to start a drop in center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. As you might imagine, there wasn't anything like it in their part of Utah.
Narrator: Ogden is a town of about 80,000 a little north of Salt Lake City. Churches abound there, including a Mormon temple right in the middle of town.
Gary Horenkamp: Gay-straight alliances are rare to non existent, even now in this part of Utah. It's a very conservative state. It has a very dominant culture, and kids were subjected to grief at school, at home, in a variety of places. So we wanted to give them 1 safe place at least once a week where they could come and be themselves, and feel welcome and validated.
Roxanne Taylor: We call our program OUTreach with a capital O-U-T, and then 'reach' lowercase, which I think is really cool because it shows you're out and we're doing social outreach.
Narrator: The center really blossomed when the congregation bought a church building near downtown. Wednesday nights are for high school kids, Thursdays are for young adults.
Chelsea: Well I started about..xI would say I was about 15, and well...I've been going ever since. I like the Wednesday program, and I kind of started the Thursday program.
Lance: Well I like that it's mostly a place to hang out with friends, and it's a good place to let real feelings out that you can't really explain to most people, and family or friends.
Maryah: They help me be a lot more open about who I am, like... me dating people and not such a recluse.
Chris Kamitsas: This gives them an opportunity to be in an environment where they're not going to get grief and hassling from other people. There are a lot of mentors here. We have at least 4 adults here along with Gary to mentor the kids and be with them.
Lance: I just think it's pretty cool to actually have somebody there for you.
Rev. Theresa Novak: It's kind of hard to imagine...the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden is a small church, and OUTreach is this huge program. I mean, not so much the size, but in significance.
Evelyn Bertilson: It has heightened our profile in the community without a doubt, and one of the most exciting things that has happened recently is the establishment of a PFLAG chapter here in Ogden.
Allison Black: We have new parents that come every week, or every month with their kids who have just come out to them and it's just a great resource I think, if you combine all of them together. And what I love about it is that the Unitarian Church, OUTreach, and PFLAG all embrace each other; and you almost feel like it's 1 group.
Narrator: And that's not the only community connection.
Gary Horenkamp: Any organization we see where there has not been LGBT representation, we attempt to join. The Suicide Prevention Task Force is probably the biggest of those that...where we have some impact.
Narrator: And that's a lot of people seeing UU values in action, and the church is proud of it.
Rev. Theresa Novak: There's a real sense of having a mission, of making a difference in the world. And this church doesn't wonder why it's here. We know why we're here. It's because we have to be here, because there is programs like OUTreach to do, and kids to help as they're struggling with who they are, and to help them on that journey.
Unknown speaker: We thought if we had 10 kids we would be successful.
Unknown speaker: This last year we served 170 kids, different kids, and we have an average of 35 a week. And we feed them and they come from 11 different middle schools and high schools.
Rev. Theresa Novak: It's hard to explain how significant it is and whether it can be any... and what it does for us to know that a small group of people, we only have 110 members, and we're making a huge difference.