This blog post is by Rev. Laurie Ann Rookard, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Media, PA.
In the summer of 2014, there was an intake for the new pastor. One of the members of SPPRC stated that she believed that the church wanted to become a reconciling congregation. This was said in the presence of two District Superintendents. When the "meet the pastor" groups were held, this subject came up again several times. The Administrative Council formed a work team of persons who volunteered and names suggested to complete a process. We called several other churches who had some experience to assist us.
Over a nine-month period, we published several newsletter articles, hosted speakers in a morning study group, and had one-on-one conversations with both church members and church volunteers from the community. This led us to the Unitarian Church, whose congregants helped us to form partnerships with other individuals and churches in the community. During Lent, our church held two group gatherings to watch and discuss "Love as an Orientation." People were very enthusiastic about this DVD series. For nine months, we displayed rainbow fabric on the altar and at the sign-in station.
In April, we gave the congregation three weeks notice that we were having a vote. We included a copy of our new mission statement as well as some guidelines for reconciling congregations from the Reconciling Ministries website and offered an absentee ballot for those who could not be present on the day of the vote.
Additionally, we spent time in prayer and prepping for conversations that may be challenging with a commitment to listen to everyone and to remain accessible. We also held a congregational meeting to offer time for discussion and questions. When the vote was taken by ballot, 62 were in favor, 0 were opposed and 3 abstained.
Since that time we have heard numerous comments from visitors, new members, and long-time members that affirm this decision. We are glad that we have taken a stand because "everyone should be welcome in a church."