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Asking the Clergy: How does your faith community support LGBT people?

The Rev. Mark Bigelow of The Congregational Church

The Rev. Mark Bigelow of The Congregational Church of Huntington, United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jennifer L. Brower of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, and Rabbi Ilana Schachter of Temple Sinai of Roslyn. Credit: Alexandra Bigelow; Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock; Kris Rogers Photography

During June’s celebration of Gay Pride, many Long Island religious congregations are making an effort to recognize the LGBTQ+ people in their pews. Still, only about 16 percent of lesbian and gay Americans attend religious services weekly, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis. This week’s clergy discuss how they embrace and welcome LGBTQ+ people and their families.

Rabbi Ilana Schachter

Associate Rabbi, Temple Sinai of Roslyn

Today, the Reform Jewish landscape is a diverse mosaic; it includes interfaith families, Jews of color, LGBTQ+ Jews and Jews from all over the world with differing rituals and practices. As part of the Reform movement, Temple Sinai of Roslyn appreciates such diversity as a gift. It is an opportunity for enriched Jewish practice and expression and an enlivened, evolving Jewish life. Our community draws inspiration from our Torah, our sacred text, which describes each person as being created in the image of God. Moreover, Judaism believes that every person contains within them unique gifts, sparks of the divine.

In this spirit, we welcome LGBTQ+ individuals and families in our community every day, and we are especially proud to stand with and support the broader LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month. On June 19, we will celebrate our annual Kulanu Shabbat service. “Kulanu” is Hebrew for “all of us,” reflecting our ongoing commitment to be an inclusive Jewish community. While this year’s service will be conducted virtually, we look forward to lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in our community and in the broader Jewish community and affirming our Jewish values.

The Rev. Jennifer L. Brower

Minister for Pastoral Care, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock

The First Principle of Unitarian Universalism, a covenantal and noncreedal faith, is our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Each and every person, whatever his/her/their gender identity, choice of pronoun or sexual orientation, is born with equal worth and is worthy of being held with tender care by other members of the human family.

If nothing else, our current experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of our innate social nature; our natural interdependence and need for relationship in order to thrive. Our uniqueness — whatever form it takes — should be celebrated. We are who we are. Our individuality adds glorious depth and texture and richness to the communities in which we live and move.

Unitarian Universalists have a long-standing commitment to the creation of inclusive religious communities, and have worked — and continue to work — for LGBTQ+ justice and equity. We believe that all of who you are is sacred. All of who you are is welcome.

The Rev. Mark Bigelow

Pastor, The Congregational Church of Huntington, United Church of Christ

Some of the happiest moments in our church’s history happened when we were finally able to perform same-sex weddings in our sanctuary. The New York legislation made legal what we already knew was moral — the understanding that we are all created and accepted by God regardless of our sexual orientation. Jesus’ primary message is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. You cannot believe one part of the equation without the other. Our church supports all LGBTQ+ persons by condemning homophobic discrimination and offering the full services of the church for them and their families.

For me, the more important question is how our LGBTQ+ members have transformed our church. Through honest sharing and reflection, we have all deepened our understanding of systemic prejudice in our society and of the grace to learn from and affirm all people. Our faith calls us to embrace the wide diversity of God’s worlds so that we may truly work together to create the “Beloved Community” envisioned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a nonviolent, just society. Personally, as a straight white man, I give thanks to God for my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in faith who guided me in becoming a more loving child of God.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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