We took the positive responses and added them to our website, http://integritydiosova.blogspot.com/ and created the Welcoming Churches list. We also created a handout and placed the congregations on a map for use at the Integrity booth at our annual PrideFest celebration. The handout and map were well received at PrideFest by the folks who visited the booth.
We also received a couple of invitations from churches to come and help educate others on what it meant to be a welcoming congregation and why it was important. This past Sunday, Board Member, Tina Finnerty and Chapter Convener, Susan Pederson visited the Church of the Ascension in Norfolk and spoke to the Adult Forum class. The church vestry voted to be identified as a welcoming congregation but had questions about why it was important.
“While it is great to be welcoming, unless others know, LGBT folks won’t know where it is safe for them to worship,” shared Tina who told her story of her own search for a welcoming congregation for her and her wife a couple years ago. “When I found a congregation nearby, I sent an email to the rector and asked if we would be welcome because there was nothing specific on their website, though there was a link to Rev. Susan Russell’s blog. I received an affirmative answer and we started attending that parish. Six months later we were both confirmed. Since that time, we have made changes to our website and now it is clearly posted that we are a welcoming congregation and we are presently waiting the official designation from Believe Out Loud.”
“The Virginia Beach Chapter of Integrity has a responsibility to our community, the Diocese and the LGBT folks in our area. We want to let everyone know that they are unconditionally loved by God, and that everyone can find a safe place to worship in an Episcopal Church in our Diocese,” Susan told the audience. “We’re here to help you on your journey to see just how that looks for Ascension.”
Tina Finnerty is a Board Member of the Virginia Beach Chapter of Integrity