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Flushing/Hollis church merger salutes diversity

"It's all about working together," said Rev. Susan Veronica Rak of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flushing.Rak has been serving as the minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flushing for the past year and a half on an interim basis and is overseeing a unification with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Hollis, which will result in the creation of a new congregation."It's a merger, not an absorption," said Rak. Rak said the Hollis church had been seeing declining numbers in past years and attendance had dropped to a low of about 15 people when the two churches began to have discussions on what to do about the situation. The church was also without a minister for some time and relied on guest speakers to hold services on the weekends."It seemed kind of crazy to have two congregations," said Rak. "We thought we ought to pool our resources." Rak said the Hollis congregation had explored a number of options, including meeting at members' houses or shutting down the church all together. In the end, she said the logical choice was to sell the building and create a congregation in conjunction with the Flushing church. Rak said the Hollis building has been sold to a medical facility and the two groups were waiting for the paperwork to be completed to make the merger complete so they can concentrate on moving forward."The new congregation gives us a renewed sense of energy," said Rak. "There will be new ways for people to discover what we're all about."According to Rak, what the church is all about is accepting anyone and everyone, regardless of religious creed, race, or sexual orientation."We're not just limited to Christian holidays that are so prevalent in our culture," said Rak. "I think that's something that sets us apart."Rak said members of all faiths are welcomed and their format often works best for interfaith families who can worship as Jews, Buddhists, Christians, agnostics and atheists. The church also recently voted itself to become a "welcoming congregation," which officially welcomes and celebrates the lifestyles of gay, lesbian, and transgender members."A lot of places hold to the 'hate the sin but love the sinner's mentality," said Rak. "We accept everyone." Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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