Our Open & Affirming Church
The First Congregational Church of Guilford is an “Open and Affirming” (ONA) church.
An “Open and Affirming” church is a church that has made a covenant to welcome into the full ministry of the church people of all sexual orientations, be they lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTQ).
This is all very well, but if you are not a UCC minister or a big shot in the denomination, you may need a translator.
A “covenant” is a commitment that is made, not only to the community, but also to God. A covenant, than, enacts a belief that the community recognizes to be sanctioned by God. In the case of an ONA covenant, a church (like ours) agrees that all people have an essential dignity that is God given and cannot be compromised or undermined by any identity defining characteristic. This essential dignity is guaranteed by the core Christian belief that every human is created in God’s image.
The “full ministry of the church” refers to the total purpose and function of the church, from its worship services, to its many and various ministries, mission, and educational pursuits.
Why, you may ask, is it not enough to simply say that “all are welcome” and leave it at that? Why do we find it necessary to go out of our way to be specific about welcoming LGBTQ folks? The website for the Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC (an informative resource that can be found here) anticipates and addresses this question:
“LGBT Christians have learned from painful experience that a vague welcome often doesn’t include them and their families. The words are important. Just as a marriage covenant normally centers on an exchange of vows, an ONA covenant shows that the congregation is serious about its commitment to LGBT inclusion.”
As an “Open and Affirming” (ONA) Church, than, the First Congregational Church of Guilford intentionally opens wide its doors in loving embrace to a community that has been systematically oppressed and marginalized in almost every culture for countless generations. As a covenantal statement, this intentionality has within it a conviction that we are led to by our Christian belief that God is a God of love, and that through this divine grace, we become more fully ourselves within the beauty of a diverse community.