Free livestreaming for the Disruptive Faith Conference, July 26-28!

For the first time ever, parts of the Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble annual conference will be livestreamed, free of charge. Please join us for thought provoking theology, advocacy, spirituality, and worship!

All videos will be available live here:  

https://www.hillhurstunited.com/live-video

Bios for some of our amazing presenters are here.

Many thanks to Hillhurst United Church for sharing their technology and their commitment to inclusive public communication with the national Affirming movement. Any donation in support of this virtual national space and the vital voices in it is welcome: https://www.hillhurstunited.com/give

(All times Calgary/ Mountain)

Friday, July 26, 7:30PM-9:00PM: Rev. Emmy Kegler: Keep Sweeping

Saturday July 27, 9:00AM-9:45AM, opening worship

10:00AM-11:00AM, Rev. Emmy Kegler: Loving the Bible?

11:15AM-12:30PM, Mike Morrison: Love Out Loud

1:30-3:30PM, Harlan Pruden: Two Spirit Reconciliation

8:30-9:30PM, Gay Straight Alliances panel: Lived Experiences (The theatrical reading of Care Takers which precedes the panel cannot be streamed because of copyright.)

Sunday, July 28, 10:00AM-11:00AM-ish: Morning worship with the Hillhurst United Church community.

 

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Affirming celebration for Sylvan United Church, Mill Bay BC, 26 May 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Sylvan United Church, Mill Bay BC, on Sunday May 26 at 10:00 AM at:
Sylvan United Church
985 Shawnigan Mill Bay Road
Mill Bay, BC, V0R 2P2
www.sylvanunited.ca
Phone: 205 743-4659

All welcome!
Please send a note of congratulations to Sylvan United Church through this form:

Affirming celebration for Eglinton St George’s United Church, Toronto, 5 May 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Eglinton- St George’s United Church on Sunday May 5, 2019 at 10:30 AM at:

Eglinton St. George’s United Church
35 Lytton Blvd
Toronto ON, M4R 1L2
www.esgunited.org   

All welcome!

Please send a note of congratulations to Eglinton St George’s United Church through this form:

form:

 

Uplifted as equal- becoming Affirming at Gower St United Church, NL

Note from Affirm United: On January 27 2019, Gower Street United Church in St. John’s NL voted to become Affirming. They will become the first Affirming ministry on the island, joining Labrador City on the mainland in Labrador. And great will be the rejoicing! Many thanks to Larry Kelly for his permission to share his words. 

Reflection by Larry Kelly – January 13, 2019, Gower St United Church in St. John’s NL

Good Morning! Last Sunday Lorne spoke about the differences between welcoming and affirming congregations. This morning’s affirm message speaks to why affirming congregations may be more important now than ever. Continue reading

Members and donors: our ministry would be impossible without you

If you are able to contribute money as well as time and talent, know that your donations and memberships make up the vast majority of AUSE’s budget. THANK YOU for your generosity and your deep commitment to safer sacred spaces. Have a look at our 2018 year in review for more details about the year behind us.

We have around 150 ministries in the (free) Affirming process, and our budget helps us accompany them. This figure has almost doubled over the past five years: thank you for helping us keep pace.

Your donations enable our volunteer Council to gather, and for our network to come together once a year. Thanks to you, we can keep that annual gathering affordable and offer full subsidies. Thanks to you, we can gather a task group on outdoor ministries (camps) in the Affirming process. We can hold meetings to explore new avenues for the Affirming process.

Gathering and communion at Dundas Square, Toronto, as part of the 2018 annual conference.

Your memberships also keep us strong. Often this work is isolating, and it’s always geographically stretched. When Affirming or ally ministries, and individuals and households, take out memberships, you help us create stronger relationships. And when we get a rare chance to meet and worship together in person, the conversation never ceases- as our 2018 conference in Toronto showed.

This Advent, AUSE thanks you for the ways you have contributed hope, joy, peace, and love to our movement. We look forward to that continued relationship in 2019. Join us or donate anytime!