In 2018, my husband, Wilbert, and I moved from The Netherlands to sunny Cave Creek, having lived for over 20 years in Europe where I, despite being brought up in the United Church of Christ in Iowa, was unable to find a church that felt like home.
Upon our return to the U.S., I eagerly began the search for a new church home. However, my excitement waned as I discovered that many larger churches, which I preferred due to my upbringing in a sizeable church and their impressive music programs, didn't explicitly welcome LGBTQIA+ individuals like us. That's when we found Black Mountain United Church of Christ (BMUCC) – a small, welcoming church that immediately made us feel at home.
Our relationship with BMUCC flourished over time; we developed a close connection with the pastor, became integral members of the community, and I even took on several leadership roles, eventually becoming the church council moderator in 2022. With the support of the BMUCC community, I aim to step back from lay leadership upon completing my second year in this role and start my journey towards ordained ministry.
BMUCC practices an "Extravagant Welcome," extending a heartfelt invitation to everyone. Our creed, which we recite in unison at each service, exemplifies this:
Welcome to our Sanctuary, God’s home. Regardless of gender, age, ability, faith, who you love or how you identify, you are welcome here on your life's journey. We are here to promote Jesus' mission of a Just and Compassionate World for All. Love Grows Here!
As a sign of our welcoming spirit, a rainbow-colored banner adorns our building, proclaiming our open acceptance of all God's children – an aspect that attracts not just LGBTQIA+ individuals but also numerous straight couples, drawn by our strong inclusivity and open-hearted community.
Progressive Christians, like myself, are increasingly seeking faith communities that share their values and desire for a progressive spiritual and moral education for their children. BMUCC stands as a beacon, reflecting these principles. So, what is it that people are seeking, and what can they expect to find at BMUCC?
BMUCC fervently upholds inclusivity and acceptance, warmly welcoming individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. The church cherishes everyone's worth and dignity, striving to foster a nurturing community where everyone can participate and share their unique gifts.
Advocating for Social Justice:
BMUCC aligns with progressive Christians' passion for social justice. The church actively partakes in advocacy and activism, addressing issues such as poverty, racial inequality, gender justice, environmental sustainability, and immigrant rights.
Nurturing Intellectual Exploration:
BMUCC fosters an environment that encourages questioning, critical thinking, and respectful dialogue, making it a perfect home for progressive Christians seeking a space to engage in theological discussions and tackle contemporary issues.
Leading in Gender and LGBTQ+ Inclusivity:
BMUCC supports gender and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. The church embraces women in leadership roles and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.
BMUCC is dedicated to environmental stewardship. The church educates its members about environmental issues and promotes sustainable practices, aligning with progressive Christians' concern for the planet.
Building Community and Fellowship:
BMUCC recognizes the value of community and fellowship. Through group gatherings, community service projects, and social activities, the church cultivates a sense of belonging among its members.
BMUCC has been a haven for Wilbert and me, allowing us to be our authentic selves and find a community of common values. The church's commitment to inclusivity, social justice, intellectual exploration, gender and LGBTQ+ equality, environmental stewardship, and community building makes it a perfect home for progressive Christians seeking a faith community that reflects their aspirations for their own spiritual growth as well as that of their children.