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.

Affirming celebration for Trinity UC, Cannington ON, 23 June 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Trinity United Church, Cannington ON, on Sunday June 23, 2019 at 11:00 AM at: Trinity United Church, 50 Laidlaw Street North,
Cannington, ON  L0E 1E0
Phone:  705-432-2721
www.trinitycannington.ca

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

Affirming celebration for Golden Ears United Church BC, 23 June 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Golden Ears United Church on Sunday June 23, 2019 at 3:00 PM at:

Golden Ears United Church,
22165 Dewdney Trunk Road
Maple Ridge  BC  V2X 3H7
Phone:  604-463-9611
www.goldenearsunited.ca

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

AUSE Council member Rev Cindy Bourgeois receives award, 8 May 2019

On May 8 2019, AUSE Council member Rev Cindy Bourgeois received the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award from United Theological College (Montreal). Congratulations, Cindy! We celebrate with you and celebrate the many gifts  you bring to our shared movement. Here’s the citation, offered by Alyson Huntly, a longtime leader in our Affirming movement. 

“Craig Chaplin created this award to recognize the ministry, gifts, and witness of those who are openly LGBTQ2, “To honour those whose life’s work has been distinguished by embodiment of such central gospel values as courage and integrity, life affirming faith, and unswerving commitment to justice and solidarity with those who are marginalized. “

I met Cindy Bourgeois in 2009, during her internship at First United Church, Ottawa. Members of the congregation remember Cindy well, recalling how open-hearted and generous Cindy was as she patiently helped the congregation stretch its understanding of trans women:

  • Her humour and persistence
    Her deep spirituality
  • Her dynamic preaching
  • Her special gift for ministering to those who felt marginalized
  • Her connection to children and youth; her connection to seniors
  • And most of all, how privileged people felt to know her!

Continue reading

Affirming celebration for Silver Spire United Church, St Catharines ON, 9 June 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Silver Spire United Church on Sunday June 9, 2019 at 10:30 am  at:

Silver Spire United Church
366 St. Paul Street
St. Catharines ON L2R 3N2
Phone: 905-682-8328
www.silverspire.ca

All welcome to attend this celebration!
Please send a message of congratulations to the community of Silver Spire United Church as they celebrate this important step on the journey. Use this form:

Affirming celebration for Grace United Church, Sarnia ON, 2 June 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Grace United Church, Sarnia ON, on Sunday June 2, 2019 at 10:00 AM at:

Grace United Church,
990 Cathcart Blvd
Sarnia ON  N7S 2H2
www.graceucsarnia.com
Phone: 519-542-1203

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

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 Emmanuel United, Sault Ste Marie, 26 May 2019

A celebration to be declared an Affirming Ministry will be held for Emmanuel United Church, Sault Ste Marie ON, on Sunday May 26 at 10:30AM at:

 

Emmanuel United Church
224 Bennett Blvd
Sault Ste. Marie ON  K9V 5Z6
http://emmanuelunitedssm.ca/
Phone:  705-946-4949

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