Acceptance at church’s core

Christina Stavale

Congregation, PRIDE!Kent discuss religion, LGBT issues

Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, the minister of the Unitarian Universal Church of Kent, looks on as her life partner, Ellen, speaks to a room full of people about the basis of their church. The Unitarian Universal Church of Kent is located on state Route 43 and

Credit: Ron Soltys

A panel from the Unitarian Universalist Church spoke about values and acceptance as part of Coming Out Week last night.

The Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, minister of Kent UU, said this particular church was one of the first groups to stand up for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. A lesbian herself, she knew from the first day she attended a service that she wanted to be a part of UU, and said she had an inkling that she could one day be a minister.

“When I came into UU, I immediately felt affirmed and welcomed,” she said.

Rachel Beale, a member of Kent UU, said she was surprised and delighted when joining the church to see that Carvill-Ziemer was a non-traditional minister. Raised a Mennonite, she was used to having only men as ministers.

“I was in awe,” she said. “I thought, ‘this is not true.'”

When she joined UU, she said she was still nervous about coming out, and participating in the church’s services helped her feel more comfortable and accepted.

“It’s nice that I can go there with my partner and go there with my sister who’s gay and be accepted,” she said.

Former Kent State graduate student and UU Kent member Liam Grice said one of his favorite parts about the church is that people exchange a wide spectrum of beliefs with each other.

“I’m really into other people’s beliefs,” he said. “To me, all roads led to UU.”

Grice said he is female-to-male transgendered, and UU is much more trans-friendly than the rest of the community.

“As far as our church being trans-friendly, compared to other churches in the area, it is, but like everything, there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “It’s a good place to be if you’re trans or queer.”

Carvill-Ziemer said at least 15 percent of Kent UU’s 250 members are part of the LGBT community.

PRIDE!Kent President Colleen Eltibi said she wanted to bring a speaker on religion for Coming Out Week because it is a common denominator for almost everyone. She said it is important for people to know what religious opportunities are out there.

Although she is an atheist, she said she considers herself a spiritual person, and was intrigued by the ideas and aspects of the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].