Affirming ministries-a decade ago

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

Volunteer of the Year Award 2017-Gary Simpson

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

AUSE Volunteer of the Year Award 2016-17- Bryon Delarue

Every year, AU/SE honours individuals who strengthen and bless our movement in especially significant ways. In 2017, we honour two Albertans: Bryon Delarue and Gary Simpson. Gary and Bryon’s work both appears on our website and social media; in 2017 Bryon offered a timeline of all the many and growing Affirming ministries in Alberta, and a reflection on how this was accomplished. Continue reading

From Hate to Hope: New prayer, and reflection on intersecting identities

Over the summer, the White supremacist march and violence in Charlottesville, VA reminded us that our struggles against violent discrimination are inseparable. When people of colour and Indigenous people, of all genders and sexualities, are targeted for who they are, what should the response of an LGBTQQIA+ and Two Spirit movement like ours be? How do we name and face White privilege and racism within our own movement and communities?

A number of communities held anti-racism rallies, and in Edmonton the Hate 2 Hope rally asked AUSE member Gary Simpson to offer a prayer. He has generously shared the prayer with us; download it here and check out our worship section under Resources on our website.

AUSE is a movement that strives to recognize the reality and impact of intersecting identities, and thus works from the belief that the recent gains in LGBTQ+ civil, political, and human rights are not equally true for all sexual and gender-diverse communities. This is why the ongoing and intense debates about the official, uniformed police presence in Pride parades are so important.

(Photo: Rally against white supremacy in Washington DC. By Ted Eytan, licensed under Creative Commons.)

(Photo: Rally against white supremacy in Washington DC. By Ted Eytan, licensed under Creative Commons.)

Continue reading

Kamloops United: A public, intentional, explicit welcome

pride-march-at-thompson-rivers-university-kamloops-uc-3-copyKamloops United Church in BC has been an Affirming ministry for decades. Lately they’ve put energy into creatively renewing that commitment, in part by focusing on how to be out, proud, and present in the wider community. Have a look at their invitation to the congregation to be present at Kamloops Pride 2017.

As Affirming committee member Christine Dolson reminds the congregation, “Most congregations do their best to be welcoming, but being affirming goes deeper and is public, intentional, and explicit, in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Being affirming is about radical hospitality, about making sure that everyone finds this to be a safe place to be who they are, and to be fully included in all aspects of the life of the church, and the broader society. In particular, Affirming Ministries like Kamloops United Church work for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Church of Canada and in society.”

Remember Orlando: ring your church bell 49 times June 12

The AUSE Council invites all churches to ring their bells 49 times (or use another form of good noise) at noon Florida time on Monday June 12. The  Florida-based New-BellOne Orlando Alliance writes, “We are asking churches around the world to toll their bells 49 times June 12, 2017 at noon to commemorate the 49 innocent victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. For the loved ones of those taken and as a united community at large, we ask you to join the 49 bells movement of love.

For more information and to sign up, visit https://oneorlandoalliance.org/49-bells/

Pride prayer and United Church statement on Pride worldwide

The United Church offers us both a prayer for Pride and a reflection on Pride Month that moves Pride from the local to the global: “During the month of June, thousands of people in Canada will be participating in Pride activities celebrating the lives and freedom of LGBTQ+ people. That won’t be happening in Chechnya, or in Uganda, Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and many other countries…

Millwoods United Church, Edmonton at Edmonton Pride 2015.

Millwoods United Church, Edmonton at Edmonton Pride 2015.

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Affirming words from our friend Anne Squire

Testimony for Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble, by Anne Squire

On May 27, 2017, Emmanuel United Church in Ottawa became Affirming. At that celebration, the physical presence of a congregation member central to the Affirming process was missing. Here is that story, and words from that member. Anne Squire, presente. With us in Spirit.

Anne Squire's rainbow cape draped over her wheelchair; Emmanuel United Church's Affirming celebration, 27 May 2017. Anne had died on April 24.

Anne Squire’s rainbow cape draped over her wheelchair; Emmanuel United Church’s Affirming celebration, 27 May 2017. Anne had died on April 24.

Margaret Armstrong writes, “Anne Squire was at the founding of Affirm. At the Morden, MB General Council amid the clash of argument that led to the United Church agreeing to ordain gay ministers, a group of gay people and supporters met in a little room to found a group of people to affirm the place of gays within the United Church. Anne was there.

Continue reading

Deer Park United (Calgary) celebrates ten good Affirming years

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 UDeer Park UC Calgary-ten year anniversary celebration-April 2017nitarian 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

Alberta’s Affirming journey: A look back and forward

showing-off-mill-woods-affirming-style

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