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“Examining and extending our language gives us a chance to broaden our definition of the word we.” —Rev. Barbara Pescan
Being a welcoming and inclusive community means consciously working to find ways to name, honor, and value experiences and identities that are usually minimized or devalued. It means uncovering our unconscious assumptions about what’s “normal” and who is present in our community, and opening ourselves to the possibility of greater diversity. In order for us each to feel welcome and included in faith communities, we need to see ourselves reflected and present in some way.
Using inclusive language does not just mean using welcoming and affirming statements, although that is certainly a good first step. Increasing the inclusiveness of our language means striving to understand the ways that language often unconsciously makes assumptions about people and unintentionally reinforces dominant norms around gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability/disability, age, and other identities and experiences. Here are a few things to be mindful around (in terms of checking the assumptions that language often carries):
“As our language becomes more and more inclusive, and as the language in this our era 'redeems' more and more words which were once eschewed by many of us (God, Spirit, even Church and Religion) may our primary discipline be to love and include, not 'to convert' and lay down rules. The remaking of our language is not necessarily painless, but if we begin with our humanity ... we can also remember how to bring some healing to that pain.”—Rev. Mark Belletini, ~1990
Do you have questions, comments, or more ideas for inclusive language to add to the guidance above? Contact lgbtq @ uua.org!
If you like this page, you might also be interested in Multicultural Welcome: A Resource for Greeters and Coffee Hour Caution: Advice for Older Adults Greeting Young Adults. You can also find out more about nurturing inclusivity in our congregations.
For more information contact lgbtq @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Monday, December 16, 2013.
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