Athol Congregational Church open its doors as an LGBTQ-welcoming church 

  •   Paul Franz

Published: 3/6/2019 2:27:31 PM

ATHOL — The Athol Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) recently added its name to the list of  over 1,500 congregations of the UCC who open their doors as an LGBTQ-welcoming church, as an open and affirming (ONA) church. Although the national church of the United Church of Christ holds this belief, it is the responsibility of each congregation to determine their own covenant.

When it came time for this congregation to explore a formal process of what it meant to be an ONA congregation, they heard time and again “That is just who we are! “ The exploration and opportunities for discussion were valuable. They took time for questions to be answered, and for personal experiences to be shared, making it a decision that has joined them together even more closely. ACC celebrates that every person that comes to their door is valuable and welcomed. Their church is committed to being a safe place for discussion and acceptance in this ONA commitment, stating, “ We will be faithful to each other as God is faithful to us.”

Initially this movement arose from the church’s visioning process which occurs every three years, in which the congregation decides where God is calling them.

Senior pastor Rev Beverly Prestwood-Taylor added, “For a number of years, this congregation has welcomed the LGBTQ community with open arms. This process was a natural next step to make our welcome explicit. We approached the Open and Affirming process as a chance to reflect on how the church can be universally accessible to anyone who has known the pain of exclusion or discrimination by the church and society.”

According to Andy Lang, Executive Director of the Open and Affirming coalition of the United Church of Christ, “This movement is a journey towards an Open and Affirming covenant, it can open hearts, deepen love, liberate energy, and reveal new ways to proclaim the Gospel in our divided and angry world.”

“It is with great excitement that we share our statement with the community,” Rev. Candi Ashenden continued. “Though we have always opened our doors to everyone, we hope that by adopting this statement as part of our identity will send a clear message to the community that we not only welcome all, but long to continue to grow a congregation that is as diverse as the Athol area itself.”

Athol Congregational Church’s Open and Affirming Statement;

We, the members of the Athol Congregational Church, UCC are a people of faith, following Jesus and sharing God’s abundant love. We embrace all God’s children. Though individually we may differ in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, religious tradition, or marital status, we are all united by the Holy Spirit. We continually strive to make accommodations, so that we are universally accessible to anyone who has known the pain of exclusion or discrimination by the church and society, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. With open hearts, open minds, and open doors we extend a warm welcome and invite all who seek God’s amazing grace to worship with our church family.

Contact the Church website  for further  information or contact the  office at 978-249-6202.

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PO Box 1000
225 Exchange Street
Athol, MA 01331
(978) 249-3535


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