“How would we know?” Crossroads’ United Affirming journey

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

Video: Nanaimo explains why being Affirming is as important as ever

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

Safe space: Hillhurst United hosts Queer Couples Weekend

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 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.

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New service of worship and sermon notes for IDAHOT, May 17 2017

Affirm Unjted/ S’affirmer Ensemble is delighted to launch an original service of worship and sermon notes by member and activist Ruth Wood. The service honours the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and is fully shared with our partner, the United Church of Canada.

Ruth is a retired Designated Lay Minister – Recognized. Ruth is openly transgender and is currently serving as a part time chaplain at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada, where she has been specifically asked to reach out to the LGBTQ community on campus. Ruth will be retiring from chaplaincy work in May 2017. (Perhaps the retirement will actually stick this time.) She has been a thoughtful and important resource to AU/SE for a number of years.

The worship is posted as the first item on our newly revised and updated worship and reflections page. Please have a look through the page, and use this service widely.  

 

LGBTQ refugee sponsorship- can we help?

If you’re a regular Affirm newsletter or social media reader, you may have seen our links to Rainbow Railroad and other groups who work with the Canadian government’s pilot project for LGBTQ+ refugee sponsorship. Did you know the United Church of Canada is one of the few Sponsorship Agreement Holders within the LGBTQ refugee program? And that there are more people seeking refuge than there are sponsors?

At the February 2017 national Council meeting, United Church of Canada Refugee Program staff Khwaka Kukubo and Ammar Youzbashi took the time to explain this branch of sponsorship to Council. They made it clear more sponsors are needed.

They explained that the United Church and Metropolitan Community Church are the only faith based Sponsorship Agreement Holders in Canada. Refugee sponsorships for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities are done in partnership with Rainbow Refugee Canada.

They noted that sometimes churches prefer to sponsor families, and that most LGBTQ refugees arrive alone. They feel more awareness of the LGTBQ sponsorship option is needed, and noted that Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble (AUSE) can help.

In turn, AUSE has committed to raising awareness of this urgent need amongst our membership. We will set up a new website section, and are preparing to set up the structure needed to accept and channel donations to groups that are on the front line of getting LGBTQ refugees to Canada. Please watch the website, our newsletter and our social media for updates.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

1) Be informed: Read up on the situations that cause LGBTQQIA refugees to flee; https://76crimes.com/ offers news and profiles of the more than 76 nations worldwide that practice legal and social persecution of gender and sexual minorities. Read up on Rainbow Railroad, which helps claimants get to Canada. Some of the basic facts about sponsorship apply to LGBTQ sponsorship too, so have a look at the United Church’s overview.

2) What is Canada doing that’s positive? Daily Xtra has offered some excellent coverage of LGBTQ refugee sponsorship; start here for an overview (Why is Canada only now accepting more LGBT asylum claims?) Even on the positive side, howe3ver, there is cause for concern; Xtra notes, “In July 2016, the House immigration committee spent 14 hours looking at whether Canada adequately protects vulnerable immigrants and refugees. LGBT groups testified that refugees fleeing persecution often feel unsafe in cramped camps with people from their home country, and face inappropriate questioning from UN and Canadian officials.”

3) Take action: What is Canada doing that’s harmful? Canada announced in late 2016 that the number of refugees who will be accepted in 2017 will be lowered; ended community sponsorships that enabled smaller churches to formally work with their communities when sponsoring; and continues to share the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which can block refugee claims made to Canada from claimants who first landed in the US. We leave it to you to discuss and discern whether the US is automatically a safe place for any refugees, especially Muslim or LGBTQ claimants (or both).

Saskatchewan Conference is an Affirming ministry, and its Refugee and Local-Global Advocacy networks offered this action in response to the government’s statement that it would not increase numbers of reconsider the Safe Third.

Again, please watch the AUSE newsletter for updates on this important work. And consider whether your congregation might step up to sponsor an LGBTQ person seeking refuge.

 

 

No room for hate: statement on the terrorist attack in Sainte-Foy, QC

On behalf of our membership and the Canada-wide network of Affirming ministries, the Council of Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble expresses its deep sorrow regarding the events of this weekend that have targeted our Muslim siblings. We stand in solidarity with our queer and trans Muslim siblings and all Muslim communities. We mourn the dead, pray for their families and the injured, and commit to speaking and acting against Islamophobia and other forms of racist scapegoating and stereotyping.

As LGBTTQQIA+ and Two Spirit communities, we have experienced too often the kind of divisive, violent hate exemplified by the terrorist attack in Ste-Foy. We know far too much about hate. Ee believe that we all share in the responsibility to act against hate of any kind.

We are thankful for the many faith communities and community groups who have already organized both vigils and demonstrations, and encourage all Affirming ministries to open their hearts and doors to all who want an end to Islamophobia.

We join with those who have written to the federal government to ask for immediate, meaningful Canadian support for refugees and migrants. We join them in calling for an increase in the number of refugees permitted entry to Canada. We call for an end to the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, echoing the original call made by churches and advocates in 2004. A United Church action is available here.

McDougall United’s Affirming journey- the details!

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).McDougall Calgary celebration-edited

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Why Pride? McKillop United Church, Lethbridge AB (video)

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).

Members of Lethbridge Pride thank McKillop for its years of support (2014).

First-St Andrew’s United, London: Blessing scarves for HIV/AIDS survivors

(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.

Red scarves knitted at First-St Andrew’s ready for blessing in the sanctuary.

 

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Why would a small rural congregation bother with becoming Affirming?

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.

Motivation

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.

Edible rainbow at Grafton United Church’s Affirming celebration.

 

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