My partner of 23 years and I retired from New Jersey to Panama City in October 2010.   We started attending the UUFBC in November and we were invited to the annual UUFBC/PFLAG joint Christmas Party in December.  The hosts of the party were Jerry and Cathy Rifenburg.  Cathy is the current president of the UUFBC.  At this party we met Amy Sue Stricklan and Jan Stricklan.  Jan would become the President of the local PFLAG organization in a few months time.

In January 2011, I was asked to join the “Welcoming Congregation” committee.  The fellowship had been aware of the UUA program for several years, but had not gone through the certification process to allow itself to be designated as such.  There was now a renewed effort to accomplish this.  After reviewing the requirements of the program, our committee started documenting all the activities that had been done in the past few years.  These included reviewing the weekly service talks to identify any that supported acceptance of the LGBT community, our outreach efforts in the community, etc.  We found that we were well on our way to certification.  Upon contacting Alex Kapitan at the Multicultural Ministries of UUA, we got a few ideas to strengthen our application.  We increased our outreach efforts to the LGBT community, advised our fellowship that we were close to applying for certification, and at the annual business meeting, the fellowship voted unanimously to be publicly recognized as a “Welcoming Congregation”.

We were now ready to apply for designation from the UUA and happily we were accepted a few months later.  We continue to support the LGBT community with pride and affection.  We stand on the side of Love, and it feels good.