Welcoming Congregation


New Welcoming Congregation Chair: David Shontz

In July, 2020 Jerry Hensel passed leadership of the Welcoming Congregation Committee to David Shontz. Jerry and the committee volunteers spent many hours working to make our congregation truly welcoming, and Jerry recently completed the process of recertifying our congregation’s Welcoming status with the UUA. Many thanks to Jerry for his service as he enters his term as Board of Trustees President.

The focus of Welcoming Congregation work has traditionally been with LGBTQ+ issues. But the UUA has also been open to broader interpretations of welcome, calling on us to become aware of other oppressions: Ageism, classism, ableism, and right now in particular racism. Improving our welcome in any of these areas helps us be more welcoming in all of them, precisely by focusing on unique oppressions in each area.

David sees our work in Welcome in three areas:

  • Showing Up: If we are visibly present at events focused on justice for oppressed people, it can be easier for them to imagine being with us in our space to worship together. The Welcoming Congregation Committee is part of the Social, Environmental and Economic Justice ministry.
  • Speaking Up: When we host our own events supporting justice, and preach the message in our programming, those yearning for justice are more likely to find our church to be a place where they can learn new ways of being together, and work with others to promote change. We work with the Spiritual Life ministry to promote programming that addresses justice for all through justice in particular.
  • Living Up: When we do the work of exploring how we uphold current injustice, and how we can subvert that behavior, those who suffer oppression are less likely to experience it by our own hands, in our space. Oppressed people drawn to our mission feel more comfortable in our presence.

Imagining how this will work in the coming year, in our virtual space, is a particular challenge. If you are interested in working with us to take on that challenge, please contact David Shontz at [email protected]

What Does it Mean to be Welcoming?

Within the UUA, the term “Welcoming Congregation” has referred specifically to congregations that are fully accepting of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT). The term is known by other faiths as “Open and Affirming,” “Welcoming and Affirming,” “More Light,” and “Reconciling.”

The Welcoming Congregation Program has helped UU’s understand the ways that our practices, language, and faith culture can make LGBT people feel excluded, and how to take active steps toward welcome and inclusion instead. However, LGBT people are not the only ones who struggle to feel welcome and included in our congregations. So, being a truly and fully ssl_logo_heart_rainbow_3inch_300dpi_rgb_transwelcoming congregation means taking action to counter more than just heterosexism. Indeed we can easily understand how this one oppression is linked to sexism, racism, classism, and xenophobia. So, to be truly Welcoming, we need to be sensitive to and supportive of the wealth of diversity in our world. In fact, our UU faith calls us to live in a spirit of “radical hospitality,” affirming our first principle – the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Northwoods has been an official Welcoming Congregation since May, 2003.