UCC promotes anti-bullying of LGBT youth on Spirit Day
Written by Emily Schappacher
October 17, 2013

A group of youth from Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas wears purple for Spirit Day.

For the first time, the Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ will do more than just acknowledge Spirit Day, recognized nationwide on Oct. 17. This year, the Dallas congregation will truly celebrate the day that encourages everyone to take a stand against the bullying of LGBT youth and promote tolerance and acceptance for all. Chris Kelley, communications director for Cathedral of Hope, isn't sure if it is his congregation's growing LGBT population, or perhaps the recent passage of marriage equality in 13 states, but something made members agree that this was the year to ramp up their spirit.

"I think that all of us, even more acutely in the last year, have realized that too many kids grow up not accepting themselves, or are bullied and humiliated for who God made them to be," said Kelley. "It's important that we affirm others and we just wanted to make a special effort. We have a little bit of everyone in our congregation and this is, needless to say, very important to us."

On Sunday, Oct. 13, and again on Oct. 17, members of Cathedral of Hope were encouraged to wear purple, the campaign's signature color which symbolizes spirit on the LGBT rainbow flag, to worship services. Youth group leaders gave a special message to youth during the services about the importance of acceptance and standing up to bullying, and the congregation promoted its efforts on social media.

"People asked, 'Hey, what's up with the purple?'" Kelley said. "And that's just what we wanted them to do."

According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLADD), the UCC was the largest religious group to "Go Purple" for Spirit Day 2012. The denomination encouraged its almost 1 million members to wear purple, and changed its website and logo in support of the campaign. The UCC will take its Spirit Day celebration a step further this year by asking members to also wear the rainbow-colored scarves knitted by members throughout the country for the General Synod Scarf Project. More than 10,000 scarves were collected and distributed to attendees of General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif., and each scarf recipient took a pledge to stand up against the bullying of LGBT youth.

But Spirit Day is about more than just wearing rainbow scarves or the color purple, said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive for LGBT concerns. It's also about putting God's extravagant welcome and radically-inclusive love into action.

"We've got to be vigilant in making our communities, schools and churches safe for everyone, especially our young people," said Schuenemeyer. "It is important to share the message with LGBTQ youth that it gets better, but it is even more important to make it better and that is what Spirit Day is all about."

Spirit Day was started in 2010 by Canadian high-school student Brittany McMillan as a response to young people who had taken their own lives because of bullying. The event is observed each October when millions of individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals, and celebrities wear purple as a sign of support for LGBT youth and speak out against bullying. Spirit Day is promoted and supported by GLADD. For a Spirit Day resource kit, visit the GLADD website.

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Ms. Emily Schappacher
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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
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