Intro - From Rev. Brian Byrne, Pastor of UCH
I vividly remember the day I saw the listing for UCH in UCC Opportunities. When I saw Open and Affirming (ONA) in an Alabama church I called that day to see if the church would be interested in me. I thought to myself "This must be a cool church!" It very much is. I cannot imagine we would have moved to Alabama otherwise. UCH is the most progressive church I have served in my long career.
I have been through ONA with two previous churches. East Congregational UCC in Grand Rapids, MI voted yes; St. Peter's UCC in Carmel. IN voted no. I have been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ for many decades. My advocacy was based on people that I got to know and in hearing their stories of coming out it changed my perspective as a young man. The Church ought to be a safe place for all and that is not the case for the LGTBQ+ community. I applaud UCH for having the vision to take this step and I think we are seeing the fruits this year. Our many visitors to a person have said that ONA was a primary reason they are with us.
In my four years as your pastor, I think UCH really leans into ONA. On both issues of sexual orientation and race I think we have demonstrated a commitment to diversity. WE have come a long way in this country and in the UCC to address these issues but still have a long way to go. In the next few weeks, you will be hearing from other members about ONA with the hope that we truly understand how important it is to so many.