As I begin the second half of my internship here at Albany UU, I can’t help but to reflect on all of the support and encouragement this community has given me. My experiences here have warmed my heart, challenged me, and helped me to grow into the minister I know myself to be. I appreciate how you treat me – more as a minister than a student, and in no small way, doing so has re-affirmed that my sense of Call was correct. This is what I am meant to do!
I am called to be a parish minister because I believe Unitarian Universalism can be a faith that is inclusive of everyone. UUs, in general, are not there yet, but my aim is to help a congregation (and the denomination) move toward full inclusion. I believe in the idea that everyone is welcome at the table, but our UU tables are not yet the right shape or size to accommodate all – especially those with marginalized identities. The need to dismantle white, cis, hetero, affluent, able-bodied privilege and centering is all too clear, and we cannot, as a denomination, fully live into our Principles without addressing this core issue.
However, I am moved by the way you have welcomed me as a transgender person, and I am especially excited to see the amount of energy and passion this congregation has invested into becoming even more welcoming and inclusive. The work you are doing with the Welcoming Congregation Renewal program and the other Inclusivity Team projects demonstrates your commitment to bringing the first sentence of the Albany UU Mission Statement to fruition – “We welcome everyone”. I celebrate this good work! Not all UU congregations are ready or willing to make such a commitment. (Look for an update from the Inclusivity Team about our progress toward the Renewal certification.)
As we work together over the next five months, I encourage you to participate in as many Inclusivity Team projects and programming as you are able. I really do believe that in order for UUism to remain relevant and not become an elite social club in the future, we must get better at welcoming those who are not part of the dominant culture.
The next opportunity to engage this topic is to attend service on Sunday, February 2nd. UU transgender leader Alex Kapitan will be preaching on transgender inclusivity in congregations. Ze will be leading a workshop in the afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 on the same topic.
Alex is a dynamic, inspirational speaker, and co-founder of the Transforming Hearts Collective. This is the group that created the class that Rev. Sam and I have been leading. I hope to see many of you there!