Tad Bickford is a North Andover resident who was active in his family church as a youth and drifted away from organized religion after college.
He explains, “Although I continued to identify as spiritual, I was doubtful that any church would be a community of acceptance for a same-sex couple. An advertised musical event one evening brought my husband and me through the doors of North Parish Church in the Old Center. The welcoming congregation mission and statements from the minister enabled us to realize that we could continue our spiritual journey as a family with a church once again.”
It is many stories like this that have inspired the creation of a new coalition of Merrimack Valley faith communities whose purpose is to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) worshippers. LGBTQ Welcoming Communities of Faith, also known as Welcoming Faiths, aims to promote equality and inclusivity of LGBTQ individuals and families of faith within our greater communities while encouraging active rather than passive openness within our faith communities.
Spearheaded by the Committee for Open Dialogue of the coalition currently includes 8 other member congregations:; Ballard Vale United Church, The Parish of Christ Church, Unitarian Universalist Congregation and ; North Parish Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in North Andover; Christ Church United, Lowell; and the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill. Welcoming Faiths also maintains close links with other support organizations such as the Merrimack Valley Alliance of Lesbian and Gay Youth (McVagly) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Welcoming Faiths encourages and welcomes other congregations to join in our ministry. The group plans to sponsor outreach to LGBTQ individuals and families through community events, actively welcome LGBTQ worshippers and those who seek a spiritual home, provide resources in support of the LGBTQ community, and send a message of tolerance to the wider community. Bickford adds, “It is wonderful that the Welcoming Faiths coalition shares the message of acceptance across so many congregations in the area that welcome those who are seeking a spiritual home.” For more information, contact: email@example.com.