KNOXVILLE - Even with youth suicides rampant across the country and the assault of many GLBTIQ individuals making headline news, a number of community groups and services, even a conservative state such as Tennessee, provide safe haven.

One example: The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, which hosts a welcoming congregation that is open to anyone. They promote the diversity of their church by occasionally offering a welcoming workshop that runs for multiple weeks at a time. Many people from the GLBTIQ community serve in this church in diverse ways from teaching a Sunday School class, to greeting at the door, serving in the choir, to even delivering the weekly service to the congregation.

Counseling services are available and the church keeps a list of people able to assist with such needs. They open their doors to allow programs such as gay support groups to meet in their building. Furthermore, they offer a yearly service in honor of the Stonewall event.

“TVUUC is a diverse congregation that celebrates its diversity," says administrative assistant Nina Braden. "We are a welcoming Congregation; everyone is welcome. However, in UU terms, a Welcoming Congregation has a special meaning. Welcoming Congregations make a deliberate decision to be welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgendered individuals.”

Finally, they have a program that has been well established called Spectrum Café. This is a time of welcoming to teens that feel different or left out for reasons of sexual identity, religion, race, gender expression, or other various reasons, they meet on the first and third Saturday of the month from 5-7 p.m.

The goal of this event is to allow the youth time to interact with each other and understand they are not alone. Sunday services are offered at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., and during summer months that is limited to one service at 10 a.m.

If you want to learn more about TVUUC, visit their website

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