On August 31, 2017, the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (PUUF) in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, reached a milestone in its history, when it received official approval as a Welcoming Congregation through the UUA. The congregation applied for this designation following eighteen months of proactive education, community outreach and self-reflection regarding issues confronting the LGBTQ community.
Our work began with a Common Read Book Discussion of Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt. This was followed by a four-day LGBTQ Film Festival, open to the public. Approximately every other month, our lay-led congregation hosted a Sunday speaker to address LGBTQ issues of concern. Speakers included JJ O’Brian, gender fluid person and president of PFLAG in Sedona, AZ, Pastor Dean Cerny, openly gay UCC ordained minister from Kanab, Utah and Anna Royer, member of the LGBTQ Social Justice Team from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colorado. We also streamed the sermon Transgender given by the Reverend Angela Herrera and Tara McCaughin of First Unitarian of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A new Statement of Inclusion is now included on our website, in our monthly Newsletter, and in all articles publicizing Fellowship programs: “As a Welcoming Congregation, the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship invites everyone to share in our faith community. We cherish diversity and foster a safe environment for all.” This Statement was added to our By-Laws with the following addition: “We embrace people of any race, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, marital status, special needs, sexual or affectional orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religious background or political perspective. This applies to all activities and endeavors, including membership, programming, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.”
On June 11, 2017, by a unanimous vote of the Fellowship, Pastor Dean Cerny accepted the call to be PUUF’s first paid, part-time minister.
PUUF reached out to the broader local community through articles in local newspaper, the Pagosa Springs Sun. In June 2016 and 2017, we created a display in our public library for Gay Pride Month. PUUF also rented our local Liberty Theater, to sponsor a free showing of the National Geographic special Gender Revolution with Katie Couric.
Further education and outreach opportunities for PUUF have become a natural consequence of our decision to hire a minister who is openly gay and who has shared the last 38 years of his life in a committed relationship with his partner, John. We have seen an increase in attendance from members of the LGBTQ community and have been particularly heartened by one transgender person and one gender fluid individual who have begun to come “out” in the safe space created in our fellowship through this initiative. Our small congregation has and will continue to experience, far-reaching, positive changes as a result of embarking upon the journey of becoming a Welcoming Congregation - a profound opportunity to grow both as individuals and as a spiritual community!