In 2008 the Unitarian Universalist Association officially designated First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans as an LGBTQI Welcoming Congregation (WC). This designation was awarded after completing a prescribed program of action, education, and change in the awareness, approach and acceptance of people with different sexual orientations and gender identity.
First Church has always aspired to be open and welcoming to all, having made many changes as a result of growing knowledge and awareness of differences. After Hurricane Katrina, First Church leaders decided to formalize the open attitudes and welcoming behaviors by seeking the WC designation from the UUA.
In August, 2007, the congregation voted to initiate the formal process for attaining the WC designation. A WC team was formed and a plan of action was developed and implemented in accordance with UUA guidelines set forth by the WC program of the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns. The guidelines specified twelve commitments a congregation must make and defined the actions necessary to actualize the commitments. The actions were divided into the categories of education, congregational life and community outreach. The congregation, guided by our leadership and the WC team with Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger as our spiritual guide and mentor, set about accomplishing the goals that were not already realized by the church’s previous actions. A series of workshops and educational and entertaining movies were presented. Services were planned to educate, support and acknowledge openness and acceptance of BLGTQI people. Language used in the bylaws and services was reviewed to make it inclusive. To First Church’s credit, just about all of it was. Community Outreach was initiated and an alliance was formed with NO/AIDS. Also, to First Church’s credit, many of the other actions were already in place such as ministerial services for LGBTQI members, recognition of same sex couples in First Church literature and directories.
At a congregational meeting on September 21, 2008, and after achievement of the goals set forth by the UUA, the congregation voted to seek formal recognition as a WC from the UUA. Documentation of actions taken and a request for formal recognition were prepared and sent to the UUA and in late October, 2008, the UUA granted official recognition of First Church as a Welcoming Congregation.