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Flag thefts puzzle Kirkland church that welcomes gays and lesbians

The congregation at Kirkland's Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church overwhelmingly supported a move last month to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to join, but it seems not everyone in the Kirkland community is happy with the decision.

In the spring Northlake began a process to earn a "Welcoming Congregation" designation, which recognizes a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church's inclusiveness toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In preparation for the designation, the church purchased a rainbow flag - a common symbol of the gay community - to fly from its flagpole. The flag disappeared on May 13. When the church purchased and raised a replacement flag, it also disappeared.

The Kirkland Police Department was informed after each instance, but neither they nor the church have any leads as to who took the flags, church administrator Cate Foster said. In the meantime, she said Northlake has purchased more flags and will fly one again once a more secure method is established.

It is unlikely someone from within the church took the flag because of the make-up of the congregation, Foster said. A primary principle of the UU church is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

"A lot of people who come to UU churches come because they're looking for a little freedom in their spiritual quest," she said.

Immediately following a July 13 service, members in attendance at Northlake Unitarian unanimously voted to become a Welcoming Congregation. Foster said it is common for UU churches to earn the designation. She also said the church's new minister is lesbian. Northlake's congregation voted in June to bring in Rev. Marian Stewart to be its new full-time minister, effective Sept. 1, 2008.

The small church of about 100 members has hosted services in Kirkland at 308 4th Ave. S. since 1961.

In order to qualify as welcoming, a congregation must participate in a series of workshops developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The major goal of the workshops is to reduce prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Northlake completed the workshop series earlier this year.

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