THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF BETHEL MAKES HISTORIC VOTE
During a congregational meeting on Sunday, February 25, 2018, the First Congregational Church of Bethel, United Church of Christ, voted to become “Open and Affirming.” An “Open and Affirming” congregation intentionally welcomes people of every sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, nationality, ethnicity, family structure, age, faith background, mental and physical ability, and economic circumstance into the full life and leadership of the church.
The vote came after the congregation spent fifteen months in study, discernment and discussion. “Since the founding of our congregation in 1759, the congregation of the First Congregational Church of Bethel has welcomed all people into their faith and fellowship,” said Pastor Rachel Fay Beam. “As followers of Jesus, our church has chosen to live out the full expression of discipleship, to love others as we love ourselves, and to care for all people. We are all made in God’s image. We are all children of God, and God loves each one of us, exactly as God has made us. The First Congregational Church of Bethel has chosen to share the love of Jesus openly. Together we are learning how to embody the deep love of God in Jesus Christ and to carry that love out into the world.”
There are over 1500 Open and Affirming congregations in the United Church of Christ. “By our vote,” Rev. Beam said, “we are affirming that we welcome everyone at our church. We have made the choice to offer a safe place to all who have been marginalized or excluded by church. We like to quote our denominational saying, ‘No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.’ We seek to live out the radical love of Jesus in our own community.”
Claudia Anderson is the Chair of the Open and Affirming Committee that led the congregation through the process; other members of the committee are Joann Smith, Janet Stephens and Vern Gaudet. “I am so proud of our congregation. We are the first church in Bethel to openly accept ALL people, no matter their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, economic situation, ethnicity, etc. We want to show others the love that Christ shows us,” Mrs. Anderson said.
The First Congregational Church of Bethel is a member congregation of the United Church of Christ. Worship services are on Sunday mornings at 10 AM. The congregation celebrated its covenant in a special service on May 6, 2018, with the Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, preaching.
Visit the church online: www.firstchurchbethel.org