FORWARD CHATS #5 - 2019-05-05
THE GREAT BANNER CONTROVERSY
This Forward Chat took up the issue of the banners, which was raised at last week’s meeting because it had become a chafing topic in the congregation. Twenty-seven people were present. Wendy Linares offered the opening and closing prayers.
Please note that the previous blog (posted 5/5/2019), “The Great Banner Controversy” provides a detailed account of how and why the banners, both the exterior rainbow banners and the interior sanctuary banners, came to be put into place.
WRITTEN QUESTION AND ANSWERS
We began with a written question:
There has been a lot of “murmuring” about banners, inside and out, in this church. Different people have different concerns. What do YOU think is the most important aspect of this issue that we need to talk about today at Forward Chats?
We received 20 responses from the 27 people in the room. These were turned in to Charles, who organized them into categories, which we summarized on the whiteboard. All the responses are transcribed below, organized in four groups around their thematic similarities:
NO PROBLEM, EXCEPT ARGUING ABOUT IT
1. They’re fine and help to send a message.
2. Blessings to have someone thoughtfully placing thematic banners.
3. No problem. Get over it.
4. Why are we arguing about this? Can’t people do something without folks complaining
5. Banners (Rainbow) – They brought us a new member – Gail Pease – instead of going to the Congregational Church closest to her home. She came here because of the rainbow banners.
NEED TO SHOW MORE INCLUSIVENESS OF MORE GROUPS
6. To honor our differences but be willing to change – embrace the new?
7. What is the purpose of the banners, and are there other ways to serve that purpose?
8. If not banners, what is the best way to display to the community that we are welcoming to all people? I’d like to see more displays of extravagant welcome rather than less.
9. Our message to the outside world has gone from the appearance of inclusive to Exclusive.
BANNERS ARE TOO MUCH, BASIC CHURCH SIGN IS ENOUGH
10. It seems the banners on poles [pillars] are too much to some people.
11. Rainbow is on sign. That is enough. People refer to this as “the gay church.” We welcome ALL. They are tacky. Turn people away from coming in. Banners inside sanctuary are beautiful.
12. Why are there four rainbow articles in a span of 25-30 yards.
13. I agree we as a church we [should?] show our support. I think we do this with our sign. Maybe not necessary to do with flags as well.
14. How about making an attempt to use all our forms of communications prior to setting the [out?]
15. How does community respond to banner – some think we are all members of LBGT community!
CONCERN ABOUT PROCESS
16. They were put up without church approval.
17. The banners should have been voted on by the congregation – also, there are too many.
18. That before any physical changes are made to the church – either permanent or “decorative” a notice be placed in the Bulletin, or any other notification.
19. Decisions that make a major statement to the Community at Large get made and instituted without input from the congregation.
20. Everyone can be heard without judgment
NOTES FROM THE SPOKEN CONVERSATION
The following remarks are organized by theme to make them easier to read and absorb.
WE NEED MORE INCLUSION, NOT LESS, AND NOT THE LIMITED WELCOME IMPLIED BY THE RAINBOWS
Doug M: History: over the decades, the church has responded to many human rights issues: some people marched for racial equality in Selma in the 1960s; we built ramp for handicap access in 1980s, and we had discussions on gay marriage in 2003 when SJC made it legal.
Demographics are the biggest barrier to inclusiveness – Sunday morning becomes the most segregated hour in America partly because we don’t live in mixed communities.
Bonnie: Spoke eloquently in support of inclusiveness, certainly including LGBTQ people, but also other groups that may feel marginalized. Perhaps we need MORE banners, not less.
Donna: Rainbows are fine for June Gay Pride month, but we need something more inclusive the rest of the time, saying “All are welcome here.”
Jake the focus on the banners misses the point, need to give equal attention to all stakeholders
Lauren N The message should be “no matter where we are on life’s journey. . . you are welcome here.“ Current banners are exclusive – a gay couple she knows thought the banners say we are a gay church.
Andrea While driving by, her daughters’ friends asked if it was a gay church now.
Bob Munroe feels rainbow banners actually end up being Exclusive (tho other deacons disagreed). Our church has more rainbow symbols than Christian symbols – have we lost a Christian theological center? The reason we come to church is to worship God.
Charles Older generation seems to see rainbows as narrowly referring to LGBTQ; for younger people, they seem to be a more general symbol of inclusiveness
Do banners attract crazy people and endanger the children in the school?
George H Make sure the old folks are welcome too. Remember the Congregational in the UCC. This provoked a subsidiary conversation:
Bonnie - name gets very long when United Church of Christ is added, prefers just UCC
Gail - Suppers have been advertised using just “Second Congregational Church”
Wendy found a banner/sign that expresses a “welcoming all” concept (love people different from yourself)
Chuck (and others) Interested in seeing the more inclusive banner options Wendy found
Peggie LGBTQ focus is too narrow – wants more inclusivity.
Re choice of signs/banners, needs to be simple for people driving by. The one Wendy found may have too many words, maybe just “All are Welcome” in a simple arch shape
CONCERNS ABOUT PROCESS
Chuck do the bylaws require a vote about exterior banners that project a political stance?
Nancy R reviewed issues around Bylaw Article X, Section 6, Paragraph e (see blog post on The Great Banner Controversy)
Suzanne We voted Open and Affirming. – it’s done and decided
Worship & Sanctuary was always part of Deacons’ responsibility.
Ruth: We appointed the committee, why not trust them? How often does the church have to vote on small decisions?
Melanie It’s OK that people don’t like every detail all the time. By fighting about this, we are encouraging divisiveness
Wendy The sanctuary banners are not decorations – they are meant to enhance worship, not to make the place pretty but to add depth to the experience
She explained about Dreamcatchers – Native American spiritual tradition
Suzanne We need reminding of the concepts behind the sanctuary banners and other multisensory efforts
Charles White plainness in sanctuary is a theological statement – no mediation between us and God; but sometimes you do need a visible symbol for the abstract concept; also, sanctuary banners make the church look more active – less static and empty
Suzanne we weren’t always a white church – look at the Victorian colors in old photos
By the end of the meeting, there seemed to be general support around the following ideas:
We do support the LGBTQ community and are happy to have rainbow banners up during Gay Pride Month as well as the rainbow in our sign.
But we do not want the rainbow to dominate so heavily that we are identified as a gay church both because it misrepresents what is a mostly straight congregation and because if they are misunderstood, they may end up excluding more people than they welcome.
There was strong consensus around putting up some sign or symbol that expresses a broader welcome (or possibly put up 12 different welcomes every month) – details to be explored.
The interior banners are fine, but the worship committee needs to be more closely integrated as a subcommittee of Deacons to maintain authority and accountability.
We should also have someone explain the sanctuary banners whenever they change so that the congregation becomes more familiar with the seasons of the liturgical year and their associated colors and symbols. The congregation will appreciate them more if they understand the meaning.
And to conclude, many thanks to Wendy Linares and Bonnie Molino who are involved with planning Forward Chats, to Melanie Dineen, who assisted by taking names to keep the speaking order equitable, and to Theresa Dickson, who has been posting all these notes on the Forward Chats blog on our website.