The LGBTQI Welcoming and Affirming Ministry at Augustine United Church
Augustine United Church merged with the Metropolitan Community Church Edinburgh in 2010 and as part of that Our Tribe was set up. Our Tribe seeks to live out God’s unconditional love for all through our values of inclusion, community, spiritual transformation and social justice. We host LGBTQI themed events and activities on the last Saturday of the month. These include a discussion panel on “LGBTQI Rights are Human Rights”, a practical creative writing workshop on “Psalms of Transformation”, a Halloween quiz and many more. Although the program is diverse, it always contains an element of worship including communion, within it.
Where did the idea come from? How did it start?
In 2010 Augustine United Church merged with the Metropolitan Community Church Edinburgh and as part of that Our Tribe was set up. The name “Our Tribe” comes from the title of the book about the lives of LGBTQI people of faith, by Rev Elder Nancy Wilson, the Moderator of MCC.
Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
Our Tribe is open and welcoming to all Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) folks, their family, friends and allies. Our Tribe allows folk, who have often experienced marginalisation or exclusion, to come and experience church in a positive way. As one of of the members aptly sums up: “Our Tribe provides access to an affirming community that isn’t on a Sunday morning.”
What resources did you need (money, people, expertise etc.) and how did you find them?
Our Tribe is funded through the central church budget. In July 2012 we won a URC Community Award for £2000 to support the ongoing work. The Our Tribe Ministry Team currently has 6 members who get together every two months or so to brainstorm, plan and organise the activities for these monthly gatherings. Once a year, we also ask the wider Our Tribe community who come along to Our Tribe to offer feedback on activities that they have enjoyed and ideas for new activities they would like to see in the future.
How did the congregation get on board?
The congregations from MCC and Augustine United Church discussed in their respective Church Meetings, met with one another and hosted an away day. Our Tribe is quite distinctive, both in the nature of our work and in how it organically integrates with the wider AUC congregation.
IMPACT ON COMMUNITY
One of the crucial things about Our Tribe is that it bridges a gap between the LGBTQI community in the city and Church. Our Tribe allows folk, who have often experienced marginalisation or exclusion, to come and experience church in a positive way. As one of of the other members of the ministry team, aptly sums up:“Our Tribe provides access to an affirming community that isn’t on a Sunday morning.” We aim to be visible at local and national LGBTQI events including Pride, community fairs etc. We publicly advertise our commitment to LGBTQI inclusion and equality through banners outside the church and postcards in various venues across the city.
IMPACT ON THE CHURCH
How did this project connect with your faith and mission? How has the life of the church been transformed because of this project?
Augustine United Church’s Vision: “Augustine United Church aspires to be an active inclusive Christian community, growing in depth and numbers.”
At Augustine United Church we believe that Jesus’ example calls us to be an inclusive community which welcomes and values all, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or ability.
The ministry of welcoming and affirming LGBTQI folk is embedded in Augustine’s vision to be progressive and inclusive:
Church Life Ministry Teams (CLMTs): Church Meeting agreed to form Church Life Ministry Teams (CLMTs) which are overseen by designated Elders and who take responsibility for different areas of Church life. Our Tribe is one such area.
Services: each season follows a liturgy and we mark and/or celebrate significant LGBTQI dates and achievements in worship.
Junior Church: welcomes families in all their diversity, specifically inclusive of members of LGBTQI families, and using materials which appeal to children’s different learning styles from the Cornerstones curriculum.
Additional resources and weblinks
Our Tribe on Facebook and Twitter
Church website: www.augustine.org.uk