In the Congregation

These are the words of those who worship at Pilgrimage—their experiences, their feelings, their thoughts. Each sees Pilgrimage a little differently, yet all agree that this is a place where you can feel comfortable in your beliefs, explore your faith and share that experience with others.

Stephen Williams, attending since 2009

Stephen Williams and family

We were looking for a congregation that would accept us for who we are. We didn’t want to be singled out as different or special. Our search began for a church that was gay friendly. That’s when we discovered Pilgrimage.

Neither of us had been active in a faith community for more than 10 years. We considered ourselves spiritual, but not religious. We found Pilgrimage to be a caring community that puts faith into action. God’s love is for everyone without exception. That love is genuinely shared within the congregation, the greater community and the world.

Initially, we stayed because of the congregation’s diversity. The unique demographic make-up and prior faith backgrounds made us feel at home. As time passed, Pilgrimage deepened our faith and challenged us to align our lives with our spiritual beliefs. Now that we have adopted a son we feel this is the Christian example we want him to experience as he continues his faith journey.

We have been asked by friends, “What is it about Pilgrimage?” Our answer? The church and the congregation have created an environment that is free of judgement. It’s accepting without exception. We are also a family oriented church that has a very broad and inclusive definition of family. Things are real here, free of pretense and falsehood.

It’s best defined in this statement, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

Emily Adams, attending since 2003

The church that I grew up in was incredibly judgmental and exclusionary. Respecting the dignity and worth of the individual was not a part of their vocabulary. God was more about fear and sin than love and community. 

After Nick and I were married, we wanted to find a church that accepted and celebrated people for who they are and had a much broader view of how we relate to God. We looked at countless churches before we discovered Pilgrimage. The members were friendly and relaxed and we felt drawn there. Then we met Kim. I have never known a pastor who was so compassionate towards others and sharing the message of God’s expansive, open love for all people. We were hooked.

As a parent with a toddler and another child on the way, I am thankful that we can raise our children in a church community that believes it’s okay to be yourself. Here they can explore who they are and what their faith means to them without being forced into a particular mold. They also will see God’s love for all people. These are meaningful gifts and a unique spiritual education.

We’ve been members at Pilgrimage almost eight years. In that time, I have made lifelong friends; taught a session on how you can 'believe' in evolution and God at the same time; been encouraged and supported by the whole church; and baptized my first son there. I have seen firsthand that Pilgrimage is not just posturing when they say, “No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” 

Jeff Durkee, attending since 2001

I really feel lucky to have come across Pilgrimage, because I grew up in the UCC faith. Then, however, it was called the Congregational Church. That was all I ever knew. My wife Jamie was raised Catholic. I faced some challenges with the Catholic faith so we both started going to the UCC church together.

We moved to Atlanta from New England about ten years ago. Our pastor had given us information about a UCC church in Marietta where we were going to be living. We decided to check it out when we arrived. 

Pilgrimage was indeed an Open and Affirming church, which meant a lot to us. We liked the welcoming, loving atmosphere we found at Pilgrimage and felt this would be a good environment in which to raise our children. 

It has proven to be just such a place!  After having been members for many years, we were surprised by the stories of rejection that some of the people in our congregation had faced at other churches. In some cases, they had been members of these churches for years. I asked myself, how could a church, of all places, reject someone?  That’s one reason we feel so fortunate to be members of Pilgrimage.

It’s the people that have kept us coming back. Neither my wife nor I have ever regretted this decision. We are very happy to be an active part of Pilgrimage, raising our children in a loving and welcoming environment. 

Clay Roth, attending since he was nine

Clay Roth

We moved to Georgia in 1981 when I was eight years old. I played little league baseball at the park that’s now across the parking lot from the church. We watched Pilgrimage being built and in 1982 my parents decided to join. Although I didn’t have much of a choice then, when I grew older and could make my own decisions I decided to stay at Pilgrimage for a number of reasons.

As a youth, I felt there was a lot of attention given to the young people of this church. My brother and I enjoyed being a part of our youth group and confirmation class. There was an openness and people didn’t judge you and we appreciated that. You had a sense of freedom and understanding and you didn’t feel pressured to conform. That same feeling and environment continues today with my children.

Another plus was the size of the church. It was just right, not too big or too small. In my college years, when I attended Georgia Tech, I sometimes went to the large churches with large congregations in Atlanta, but it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t find the closeness of a caring church family.

I also stayed because I believe in Pilgrimage’s open and affirming stance. Or as our welcome says, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” It would be very difficult for me to attend a church that excluded certain people from the congregation.

After 30 years, I’ve grown even closer to my church family. It’s been nice to watch the families that attend Pilgrimage grow and change in that time. Some of the children I taught in Sunday school now have kids of their own. Pilgrimage is a very special place. Everyone is accepted and can explore their faith journey on his or her own terms and that’s the kind of place I can call home.