(Chelsea Update would like to thank Eric Strickland for the information in this story.)
You may have noticed a colorful rainbow flag with the words “Justice For All” hanging on the front of St. Paul United Church of Christ (14600 Old US-12).
The flag is not only beautiful, it is also meaningful.
Members of St. Paul UCC, after over a year of study, discussion and prayer, voted in November 2020 to become an “Open and Affirming” UCC congregation. The vote was overwhelmingly (91%) in favor of this important step in the life of the church.
You may be asking, “What does that mean?”
While all churches generally strive to be welcoming to others, being “open and affirming” means much more.
- It means that St. Paul welcomes people of all races, all ethnicities, all sexual identities, all personal identities and all abilities.
- It means that anyone who walks into the door (when in person worship begins again) or joins worship via Zoom will be accepted as they are.
- It means any two consenting adults may join together in Holy Matrimony at St. Paul.
- It means that members of St. Paul strive to love all of God’s people and creation without judgment.
The effort to become Open and Affirming was led by a group of members who called themselves “Grace Group”. Regular meetings, question and answer sessions, consultation with other churches, study and prayer took place well over the year prior to the Congregational Meeting and vote.
Pastor Eric Strickland guided and provided counsel to the Grace Group, which was formed and already meeting prior to his call to St. Paul.
St. Paul of Chelsea is the No. 1688 United Church of Christ in Michigan to have become Open and Affirming.
A group of Grace Group members have been studying systemic racism to better understand how St. Paul can do its part in avoiding this.
Another group is learning about the Black Church, and how these institutions are similar and/or different from white churches.
It’s an exciting time to be at St. Paul United Church of Christ. People are learning and growing.
If you are interested in learning more, Zoom Sunday services take place at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings, and the link may be found on the church’s Facebook page (St. Paul, Chelsea).