By Bryon Delarue
It was Sunday April 15, 2007 that Deer Park United Church in Calgary celebrated becoming an Affirming Ministry within the United Church of Canada. And it was also my birthday. On Sunday April 23, 2017 Deer Park celebrated 10 years of being an Affirming Ministry.
The Unitarian Church of Calgary lent us their rainbow banner as a backdrop for our celebration. The 500 foot banner was created as a project of a group of youth from the Unitarian Church of Calgary. In June 2005 Parliament Hill was awash in the colours of all 500 foot of the banner as it was paraded during rallies supporting legalization and to inspire a positive vote for same-sex marriage which became a federal law on July 20, 2005. What we displayed in the Sanctuary was 125 feet of the original banner. Continue reading
Mill Woods United Church in Edmonton, showing off its Affirming welcome.
Many thanks to Bryon Delarue for bringing together this excellent overview of some of the 24-plus Affirming ministries in Alberta. Exactly ten years ago, there were three Affirming ministries in Alberta. Now there are twenty- four, with many more to come. Many of the more recent ones are in small towns. It is also home to the first assisted living facility in the country to become Affirming. This did not happen by accident or alone. Have a look at the details of this story- and be inspired to work on a similar commitment in your own context.
In the fall of 2003 Deer Park Council held two congregational gatherings with the purpose of listening to a collective voice on the core identity and passions of the congregation. An outcome was to live our mission for the next three years by focussing on youth; men; community with each other; people of other faiths; people in need and people of gay or lesbian orientation. Continue reading
In May 2014 our minister, Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes received a phone call from a couple asking if our congregation performed same-sex marriages. When she responded that we did, she was asked, “How would we know that? We didn’t see anything on your website.”
The thing to know about our congregation, Crossroads United Church, is that we thought of ourselves as already open and welcoming. We had the history to prove it, didn’t we? And so it was that the question from the caller, “How would we know?” became key for us. Continue reading
From Vancouver Island, an excellent new video on being Affirming:
Brechin United Church’s Rev. Sally Bullas writes, “I wanted to share the recent video produced by Shaw TV Nanaimo profiling Brechin’s “Reaching Out” group and the “ROAR” refugee sponsorship group that formed from “Reaching Out”. We are very proud of these initiatives that formed a result of our becoming an Affirming Ministry.”
Please share and use this excellent four-minute video, which draws on community stories to show the importance of becoming Affirming. It also tells the story of the congregation’s decision to sponsor LGBTQ refugees. Consider such sponsorship yourself; have a look at our overview.
Hillhurst United Church is an Affirming ministry in Calgary, AB, and in March 2017 they partnered with Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble to hold a weekend event focused on supporting queer couples and relationships. If this model interests you, get in touch with us; we have funds to support other events!
Pam Rocker and Brian Mitchell-Walker, organizers and facilitators.
Pam Rocker, Hillhurst’s Affirming and Creative Coordinator, says, “We were honoured to host the first Queer Couples Weekend at Hillhurst. Fifteen couples from Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Edmonton joined together for three days of relationship building, fun, connecting, and great food.
McDougall United Church in Calgary joined that city’s growing Affirming family in December 2016. Here at AUSE we’re often asked what the Affirming process looks and feels like.So McDougall kindly shared the details of their journey. May it inspire you and your ministry.
As the writer, chairperson Shirley Wilding notes, “It has been an exciting and rewarding journey to become part of an Affirming Ministry and to be recognized as a Standing Committee of our church Council. We know the real work of being affirming is just beginning, and we welcome the challenge and the reward!”
Although our journey to become affirming seems short, it is a journey that was started previously at least twice… (Below: Joe Reina presenting the Affirming certificate at McDougall United).
Are Pride parades needed anymore? And do churches need to be present? McKillop United Church in Lethbridge AB found an answer when they participated in the parade, camera in hand, and asked community members what they thought. Have a look at the results. (The answer to both questions? YES.)
Members of Lethbridge Pride thank McKillop for its years of support (2014).
(Another story in our series featuring the life-giving work of Affirming ministries.) For the past four years, First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, Ontario has been in partnership with the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) for some of their outreach projects. One of these projects has involved our Knit Wit group knitting red scarves for RHAC’s public awareness program.
Red scarves knitted at First-St Andrew’s ready for blessing in the sanctuary.
Many people assume urban churches are more likely to become Affirming. But in recent years, at least half of the ministries joining the Affirming process are in small towns. And their presence in both their communities and the Affirming process has a strong impact; they’re breaking stereotypes, and changing our Affirming process for the better.
Here Rev. David Lander describes Castleton-Grafton pastoral charge’s journey, outlining motivation, process, congregational culture, theology, and overcoming fears. Read on to be inspired.
Over the last number of years, many United Church congregations have toyed with the idea of becoming Affirming. Most congregations want to give the message that they are inclusive and welcoming. Most congregations think they are already welcoming.
Edible rainbow at Grafton United Church’s Affirming celebration.
In November, Moderator Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell and Rev. Michael Blair, Executive Minister for the Church in Mission unit, visited Jakarta, Indonesia at the invitation of its theological seminary. Jakarta Theological Seminary has committed itself to a yearly focus on LGBTQI inclusion, despite the challenge this creates in their context. This year’s conference also included the annual gathering of Asian Affirming and open churches. In this spirit, we include this post as part of our Affirming Ministries in Action series. (And draw attention to the t-shirt she’s wearing.) Continue reading