FREE United Church worship and education resources for our Affirming journeys

Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble is a grassroots network that relies on many partnerships in its core work of advocating for and supporting safer sacred spaces. Our family tree includes communities of many different paths and traditions; our roots are mostly United Church. We welcome the solidarity and support shown by the United Church’s General Council office as together we’ve widened the range of resources that support the discernment, practice, and prayer in which any Affirming journey is grounded. Read on for some new and renewed resources. Thank you for your gifts to the Mission and Service fund, which made these resources possible.

Relaunch! Celebrating Gender Diversity Toolkit
This excellent and widely used resource has been completely updated and is (still) completely free. It’s essential, even life-saving, that our sacred spaces celebrate the gifts trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and Two Spirit people bring to our faith and community life. This comprehensive toolkit gives you many, many practical avenues for change in your ministry. Please download your copy, whether you’re Affirming, on the journey, or not there yet. There is always something positive we can do. Looking for yet more resources? See the entire range of options.

The Affirming Journey:
 Mandate magazine

This special issue, from Spring 2018, focuses on LGBTQI+ and Two-Spirit justice. Inside you’ll find articles on why the United Church’s Affirming journey has only just begun; intersectionality; chronicling the impact of 1988; a timeline of LGBTIQ2S+ justice in the United Church; a glossary of key terms and concepts; as well as worship resources, a Bible study, workshops, youth programing, and more—all moving toward affirming, healing, and renewal for all.

United Church Resource Distribution (UCRD) has graciously provided us with a complimentary special digitalized issue of Mandate’s “The Affirming Journey” from Spring 2018. To request your copy, please email jsullivan@united-church.ca or communications@ause.ca. An email will be sent to you with a link to where you can view and/or download this special issue.

Video: Two Spirit powwow and the Healing Fund, plus many other videos
In the spring of 2018, Indigenous and community groups in Saskatoon held a Two Spirit powwow. One of the first of its kind, and possibly the first in Canada, it was deeply important circle of spirit and prayer. The United Church was honoured to support this work through the Healing Fund. Mission and Service offers us this 3 minute video on the powwow and its importance. Please share during worship and/ or community times in your ministry, adding this resource to AUSE’s 2019 PIE Day video and to many videos from Affirming ministries.

PIE Day 2020 and Pride Sunday 2020
On March 14 Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble will once again offer resources to help you have fun with pie and with PIE: how to offer a Public, Intentional, and Explicit welcome to people with diverse genders and sexualities. Watch www.pieday.ca The United Church will be part of promoting this second annual day of serious fun, serious dessert, and serious discernment and commitment. And on Sunday June 7 the church is invited to again celebrate Pride Sunday. Mark your 2020 calendars!

Affirming building use and rental policies

Our faith is about so much more than our buildings. Yet our buildings and camps are also important spiritual and physical spaces that house not only our own ministries, but many other vital community initiatives too. Many Affirming ministries own their own building or facility, and in the course of their Affirming journey they generally add more inclusive spaces, such as all-gender washrooms, space for smudges and other Indigenous ceremony, wheelchair ramps, technology for the deaf and hard of hearing, and more. It’s an ongoing process that never really stops.

Most also rent the space to other groups. What, then, does an Affirming use of the building for everyone look like? What happens if a group opposed to LGBTQIA+ rights and identities wants to rent the space? What does safer space look like? Here’s one example of a policy and commitment from Trinity United Church, a rural congregation in Cannington ON. Download their building rental policy PDF here

Does your ministry have an Affirming building use or rental policy and resources? Let us know! Contact the Communications Coordinator here and send it on, so we can add to our community resources.

2018 annual report available now!

Are you a super-supporter of Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble? A keener? A generous donor? An avid reader of reports about truly amazing cross-Canada work? Then this soon-to-be bestseller is for you!
Our annual report, covering highlights and accountability reports for 2018 and the first half of 2019, is available now, right here. Enjoy stories and photos that show not only the range of work we’re about- but show you how important your support is. Thank you for all the love-affirming ministry you’ve offered our movement through your gifts of time, skill, experience, and financial support. Onward to the rest of 2019!

Is an Affirming journey even needed? Four voices

From a thread on the United Church of Canada Facebook group, spring 2019. The post related to the United Methodist Church’s March 2019 decision to renew its ban on LGBTQIA+ clergy and equal marriage.

Part of the conversation turned to the Affirming process in the United Church: whether it should be a priority since the perception is that the whole church is “already welcoming”; whether it was accessible to congregations who struggle with a lack of volunteers; or whether it’s needed at all. Different opinions about how welcoming our United Church ministries really are were expressed, and debate offered up. Here are some stories from responders in that conversation, used with permission. Please note that they are speaking from their personal experiences, and not speaking on behalf of the ministries they serve.

Leigh Sinclair (Minister, Robertson-Wesley United Church, Edmonton AB): I have been in affirming congregations and welcoming congregations. There is a difference. How often do we preach love from the pulpit, how much do we discuss each marriage request and most importantly are we telling the community we live in what we believe on the outside of our building or in the safety of our hearts? The harm done by the Christian faith towards the LGTBQ communities can only be atoned for when love is shared as publically as it once proclaimed hate. Continue reading

Gower Street United Church: the island of Newfoundland’s first Affirming ministry

By Larry Kelly (See also “Uplifted as Equal”: Larry’s reflection offered at Gower Street before their Affirming vote.) Photos by Martina Bennett, with thanks.

It’s official! Gower Street United Church is an Affirming Community of Faith in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. On June 5, 2019 the congregation hosted a public celebration to recognize its Affirming status. It seemed fitting that Gower, the oldest United Church congregation in the province, dating back more than 200 years, was publicly affirming its commitment to inclusivity, equity and justice for all God’s children, including those of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

The air seemed electrified with the beautiful sounds of What the World Needs Now is Love, played by the Gower Community Band while approximately 300 jubilant congregants and special guests filed past two progress pride flags at the main entrance and into the sanctuary, but not before stopping to pet St. John Ambulance therapy dogs and chat with their owners. Sunday school children offered pride colored crosses that they made and painted during the previous week.

Special guest choirs, The Stella Burry Inclusion Choir and Spectrum Queer Choir, as well as the Gower Youth Choir and the Gower Senior Choir, settled into place as the official celebration began with the playing of the Royal Salute to welcome their Honours, The Honourable Judy May Foote, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Mr. Howard Foote.

A procession of youth and parents followed carrying pride flags while the congregation sang Let us Build a House. The pride candle was lit for the first time by a young girl, Naomi Addison, with the support of her family.

The Lieutenant Governor. (Photo: Martina Bennett)

The order of celebration included thought-provoking and encouraging words of inclusion from Her Honour, carefully selected musical pieces, an inspirational address by guest speaker, Mr. Remzi Cej, a man of Muslim faith, Kosovar refugee, Rhodes Scholar, LGBTQ activist, and human rights award winner. Rev. Pamela Jones- Fitzgerald’s welcome and inclusive words were, as usual, a moment of pride for the congregation. An uplifting message from the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, The Right Reverend Dr. Richard Bott was read by the 37th Moderator of The United Church of Canada, The Very Rev. Dr. Marion Pardy.

The celebration continued with a reception, cutting of the Affirm cake and continued fellowship with old and new friends over tea and sweets.

Our Affirming journey has begun, and while we aren’t sure where it will lead us, we are confident that we are on the right path: God’s path to living out our mission of full inclusion, justice, and equity for all.

Spruce Grove Gay Straight Alliance on the difference a church made

Affirming Connections in Calgary writes, “We want to cheer on that St. Andrew’s United Spruce Grove celebrated becoming an Affirming Ministry on Sunday, April 28!

We received a letter from Spruce Grove GSA Society about their affirming experience with St. Andrews, and it’s amazing – we wanted to share it with you.”

Additional context: St Andrew’s Affirming celebration took place days after Alberta decided on a new provincial government. Alberta’s United Conservative Party won the election, and it had campaigned in part on removing privacy protections that allowed schools to not inform parents when a student joined a GSA.

From Spruce Grove GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Society:
“In January 2018 the Spruce Grove GSA had its very first meeting. Unfortunately for our next meeting, in February, we suddenly found ourselves homeless. I had approximately three weeks to find somewhere to host our youth! I was heartbroken, devastated and crushed. What would I tell our kids, the parents, what would I tell Spruce Grove… our community GSA has suddenly come to a crushing halt.

A friend referred me to Connie Archer from St. Andrew’s United Church. I called her up and she agreed to meet with me at the church the next day.

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National ecumenical consultation of affirming ministries, April 2019

Jordan Sullivan, is the Ministry Partnership Animator for the United Church of Canada, and a bridge builder between Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble and the wider United Church. He and AUSE co-chair Michiko Bown-Kai were involved with a recent ecumenical national consultation of Christian denominations about their work towards being truly LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit-welcoming.

He writes, “I am so very grateful for the courageous, faithful, and committed people involved in LGBTQIA2S+ Justice work among their respective faith communities across Canada.

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PIE video- more about the hosts and ministries!

People have been asking about the hosts of our new video, who take us through what PIE means, and spend a lot of time eating pie. And our new 15 minute free video on a Public, Intentional, and Explicit welcome for LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people also features five Affirming ministries from BC, Alberta, Ontario, and PEI. Learn more about them all here! (What’s “Affirming”? Learn more here.)

Running time: 15 minutes. Download or stream and enjoy: https://vimeo.com/320966739

Thank you to Gifts with Vision and all who support Affirming Connections and Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble with your time, love, and resources. Read on to get to know our storytellers, and please share the video widely.


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Why P.I.E? at Kamloops United Church

A talk offered by Christine Dolson March 17 for Affirming PIE Day 2019 (drawing the circle wide on or after Pi Day and exploring Public, Intentional, and Explicit celebration/ welcome of LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people.)

Good morning!

As you can see we have a bit of a pastry situation going on.

I want to talk to you about pie, all kinds of pie and about some of our pie practices around here.

Affirm United is the national organization that works for the full inclusion of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations in the United Church, and in wider society. They help ministries to become truly welcoming safer sacred spaces. In 2019, to have a little fun and build awareness, they declared that March 14 would be National Affirming Pie Day. Today, belatedly, KUC is celebrating PIE day.

Why PIE ? Well… Public; Intentional; Explicit is the standard for an affirming welcome of LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit people. Two-spirit is a uniquely Indigenous identity.

Why Pi?    Love is a circle. It’s irrational, inclusive and infinite. So why not add that affirming twist to International Pi Day celebrations on March 14?

Why pie? …Why not?  Pie makes everything better!

So let’s slice up some PIE. Continue reading