By Julie McGonegal. Check our Facebook album for some photos!
The Rainbow Tree: a lovely old maple, made into a rainbow space by Susie Henderson as the heat inside the church grew more intense.
Many Voices–One Song. That was the theme of Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble’s Annual Meeting and National Conference. It encapsulated the vibrant diversity of the
over 85 participants who gathered together from July 13–15, united by a Spirit-led call to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the church and wider society.
We may be in different places on the Affirming journey and we each arrived at the meeting, held at Royal York Road United Church in Toronto, from different locations; participants hailed from all corners of the country and represented a colourful rainbow of experiences and identities. Yet we came together to sing a heart song that heals, uplifts, and supports all gender and sexual identities in our church. As always, people of all identities were welcome to join our weekend-long community.
The diversity of our perspectives, and the common cause that unites our vision for the future, was evident during the business portion of the meeting. Often the mandated annual general meeting is a minor part of the weekend. However, this year our usual sharing of Affirming stories from across the church was preceded by intense discussion about the changes currently facing the United Church, and how these changes affect the Affirming movement. Continue reading
Grosvenor Park United Church, an Affirming ministry in Saskatoon SK, recently received a homophobic email. With their permission, we share the email and their response, which was drafted by a group and sent by the minister. Continue reading
What a celebration it was Saturday, April 14th & Sunday, April 15th 2018! The sanctuary was a rainbow of colors with a beautiful rainbow banner leading up to the altar. The Fellowship Hall was bedecked in rainbow tissue flowers and the congregation was invited to add rainbow stickers to their name tags. The Affirm United banner stood front and center for all to see.
Saturday night kicked off the celebration with a chili supper followed by a screening of the Camp fYrefly documentary, “Over the Rainbow.” This documentary raises awareness about the complex needs and concerns of LGBTQ youth. The positive impact on the youth who attended Camp fYrefly was dramatically portrayed. Guests Carmen Gerrard, her daughter Marissa, Michael the director and Bryan Mortensen (Institute of MinorityStudies and Services) were available to answer questions afterwards. This event was well attended and capped a yearlong educational journey for the congregation in our Affirming process. Continue reading
People often comment to AUSE that they appreciate ideas about how to live out being Affirming. Et voilà: Mount Royal United Church in Québec writes with an update about their Affirming work.
“…thanks to the thoughtful leadership of member Cindy Casey, MRUC put forward a motion to Presbytery (which successfully passed) re: training for ministers in LGBTQ issues similar to training about sexism and racism.” Have a look at the motion wording, and consider whether this is something to bring forward in your new Region when the time is right.
Mount Royal’s work goes even wider: “We have a committee working very hard to obtain the necessary funding to be able to construct a main-floor, gender neutral, handicap-accessible bathroom facility. We are cautiously optimistic! We also contribute ongoing financial support to Beaconsfield LGBTQ Youth Centre. We are working on making our Affirming status more visible for visitors; our new mission statement is printed on a regular basis in our order of service; the LGTBQ community is quite regularly included in the pastoral prayers.”
Islington United Church in Toronto is in the Affirming process, and will vote April 2018. Here’s a nifty resource: a PDF version of the PowerPoint they used in an open discussion on where their Affirming process is at as they prepare for that vote.
Transparency is key to a good Affirming process, and is crucial throughout. It’s natural that questions and fears may surface during the process. The transparency and clarity shown in this this resource is a great example of one way to ensure that all in the ministry know exactly where the Affirming process is at, and who to contact for conversation and questions. Thanks for sharing this, friends at Islington.
In late February 2018, an important letter was sent to all Affirming and in-process presbyteries and Conferences, in light of the 2019 amalgamation of these two key
Celebrations of becoming Affirming are always public, and almost always include cake. Agassiz Presbytery, MB, celebrates becoming Affirming, February 2017.
United Church of Canada structures. The letter clarifies the status of Affirming Conferences and presbyteries. Please download the letter here and feel free to share it.
One of the most significant gifts AUSE has experienced over the past decade is the rapidly increasing number of Affirming presbyteries and Conferences. Commitments like these have helped our movement grow beyond congregations, while continuing to honour the vital place of congregations in our movement. Continue reading
These resources are designed to help your work, whether you’re considering beginning the Affirming process or have been an Affirming ministry for decades. Check out our infographic, our Becoming Affirming flyer, and our travelling banners. Note that we all Affirming resources are available on our Affirming ministry and our Resources/ handouts pages. Continue reading
We’re delighted to announce that Royal York Road United Church will host the 2018 Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble annual conference July 13-15 in Toronto. We’ll gather on Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, and Anishinabek Territories; we look forward to creating a safer space and a deeply inclusive welcome for all.
AUSE also thanks Toronto Conference of the United Church for its generous contribution to staff support for this gathering. We’re deeply grateful to Affirming ministries like Royal York Road and Toronto Conference, and we hope our time together will be a chance for all to experience and learn from Affirming ministries across the land. As always, people of all identities are welcome, and we’re in an accessible space with public transit at the door.
Please watch this site, www.ause.ca for registration and details. Our annual conference: includes community, worship, learning, discussing, eating, and probably films and dancing too! All identities welcome. We’ll post registration and agenda links here when they’re ready. For now, please hold the date! And please share the invitation widely, as a PDF for printing, or as a JPG for social media and your newsletters (right click on the image above).
This weekend falls before the United Church’s national triennial meeting, General Council, and its public Festival of Faith in Oshawa, about an hour east. If you’re travelling to General Council, come early and join us. Or, stay on after for the Skylight Festival July 27-29 at Five Oaks near Paris ON.
Throwback Thursday/ Throwback Anyday: Affirming ministries a decade ago, and a lot of change since.
Huron Shores United Church, Grand Bend ON, at their Affirming celebration in September 2017– one of over 30 new ministries welcomed to the family in 2017.
At times it feels like the church is making slow progress at becoming truly LGBTQ+ welcoming. While AUSE is edging towards 200 Affirming ministries, it’s too easy to look at the United Church’s roughly 3,000 ministries and courts and focus only on how far we have to go. But, look at this Observer story from a decade ago for some context.
Writer Mike Milne noted, “only 31 United Church congregations (as well as three regional ministries, three retreat centres and two colleges) now officially call themselves Affirming. It’s a tiny portion of the United Church’s 3,500 congregations — less than one percent.” Continue reading
Every year, AU/SE honours individuals who strengthen and bless our movement in especially significant ways. In 2017, we honour two Albertans: Gary Simpson and Bryon Delarue. Council member Jen Carter-Morgan writes,
“It is a great delight to be able to introduce a wonderful man who is one of the faces of the Edmonton Pride Community – Gary Simpson.
Gary Simpson decked out in his usual Affirming splendour at the Edmonton Pride parade, 2017.
Gary and I first crossed paths at the start up gatherings of a group called Soul Outing, which is a queer worship community in Edmonton that we were both involved in and he still is. He is a dedicated and colourful participant in the Pride Week activities, from walking/riding with the United Church groups to volunteering at the festival afterwards, to staffing an information table. Continue reading