Are you an Affirming Ministry with questions? Or ideas to share? Or maybe just looking for some community to connect with on all things Affirming? Or perhaps your community of faith isn’t yet Affirming, and you’d like to learn more about the process, and what others are doing? Then join us for coffee! AU/SE is inviting you to join us for monthly coffee hours to learn and connect. All are welcome, but registration is required.
A few months ago we put out a call for AGM 2024 hosts, and many of you responded! We are now inviting any interested communities of faith to join us for a virtual info session to learn more about what hosting entails. If your Affirming Ministry is interested, whether you’ve expressed interest before or not, please join us for this session. Register here.
Welly has been an outstanding advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Redeemer University which has not been easy, at a school who is not Affirming. Last year, Welly and the Redeemer LGBTQ community experienced the death by suicide of a beloved member of the community. Welly rallied around students and did not give up the fight to have Beckett’s experience heard. The advocacy and voice Welly has maintained as a student at Redeemer University has changed lives. She has instilled confidence in personhood, has affirmed the inclusive Love of God and has been a voice for those feeling alone in their journey in figuring out who they are.
Sharon Valmont is this year’s Volunteer of the Year!
Sharon is the Chair of Golden Ears United Church’s affirming team, encouraging, and inviting new people to the committee. They’ve held three major affirming events in the past six months, including a PIE Day screening, and a Drag Brunch. Sharon is an out and proud Trans woman who lives with some disabilities. She has generously shared her journey and testimony with her congregation in worship, being willing to be authentic and vulnerable. She shared her journey to sobriety and has helped our congregation be more understanding and welcoming. She also is a weekly volunteer at their Thrift, and volunteers to run their livestream on Sundays.
From Sharon: “Volunteering has always held a special place in my heart. There’s something inexplicably rewarding about dedicating your time and energy to help those in need. The smiles on people’s faces, the gratitude in their eyes, and the knowledge that I have played a part in brightening someone’s day are priceless rewards.
Receiving the Volunteer of the Year award is a testament to the collective efforts of all those who contributed to my journey. It is an acknowledgment of the countless hours, determination, and love poured into the work I do. This recognition fills me with tremendous pride while also inspiring me to continue making a difference in the lives of others.”
All are welcome to a celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry for Courageous Community
Address: 3747 Church Street, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 1T5
Date: Sunday September 24, 2023
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: In-person at 3747 Church Street Port Alberni and on Zoom. Please check Courageous Community’s website for Zoom link. Followed by Affirming themed Night Temple Service including a video and 40 minutes of music with different centers to explore.
On Wednesday, September 20th, anti-2SLGBTQIA+ activists plan to rally at legislatures, city halls, and school board offices across the country under the “1 Million March 4 Children” banner. While they claim to be in support of “parental rights,” this is explicitly an anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rally. They’re supported by a big tent of far-right and conspiratorial groups, including Christian Nationalists, white supremacists, and anti-public education activists.
Plan an alternate event at the same time on the 20th. This could be anything from a coffee hour to a vigil, simply – a place to connect and find solace.
Use all of your available communication channels to show your support: church signage and property, e-newsletters, websites, social media, and connections with local media. We have created some images that you can use in your messaging, that you can see below, and download here.
Connect with your faith community and work together to find out what your ministry can do to respond faithfully to these issues.
Contact politicians, in particular school trustees/MP’s, to express your support for gender-affirming policies and inclusive education, and your opposition to policies that would forcibly out trans youth (sample letter).
4) Community Relationships
Reach out to local 2SLGBTQIA-led and solidarity groups and ask how you can be of service and what kind of allyship would be most helpful to them.
5) Pastoral Care
If you feel equipped to offer support to those who are being targeted by these hate groups, be sure those around you know you’re available.
Ask for support! This is an extremely worrying and intense time for queer folks.
We encourage everyone to share positive messages of Public, Intentional, and Explicit affirmation to the 2SLGBTQ+ community, particularly from a faith perspective.
Since religion is being weaponized by many of these extremist organizers, it’s imperative to share a different narrative about faith, and to categorically denounce hate and bigotry.
Messaging and images created in partnership with Affirming Connections, and the Regional Minister: Justice and Communication for Living Skies, Prairie to Pine, and Northern Spirit Regional Councils of the United Church of Canada.
The Affirm Ministry at Port Nelson United Church in Burlington, Ontario is a vibrant, committed group that over the past six years has carried out its mandate to promote inclusion in multiple areas of diversity. The Affirming statement guiding their work is as follows: “We affirm, include, and celebrate people of every age, race, belief, culture, ability, income level, family configuration, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation in the life and ministry of Port Nelson United Church.”
The mandate of the Affirm Ministry also includes advising other ministries and the Board on making the church building and the activities within more inclusive. They were consulted on signage for all-gender washrooms. They continue to make suggestions for enhancing accessibility to church events and the building, recommend providing financial support to church events so that income level is not a barrier to attendance, and promote intergenerational gatherings.
The Affirm Ministry administers the Port Nelson Youth Award, a $1000 scholarship “to recognize and celebrate leadership of young people in the community in the area of being inclusive, particularly pertaining to 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. This award has been offered for the past 10 years and was created to mark the marriage of their minister, the Rev. Dr. Michael Brooks and his husband Jay Poitras, an educator.
In the fall of 2022, Port Nelson hosted, with four other local churches, a production of the oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard,” performed by the Elora Singers and a small instrumental ensemble. Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and murdered in an act of anti-gay violence in 1998. Over $2000 was raised for the support group “Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” (PFLAG) Halton Region.
On March 14, 2021, celebration of the first P.I.E. Sunday was virtual due to COVID-19. In his sermon, Rev. Dr. Brooks spoke about the Port Nelson journey to affirming incorporating the concepts of being public, intentional, and explicit. On March 13, 2022, with the congregation now meeting in person, the P.I.E. celebration was led by the Affirming Ministry. Pie was served at coffee time. An auction for the opportunity to “pie” Michael Brooks raised about $1100 for support of the Positive Space Network, an umbrella of support services for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in Halton Region. At this year’s P.I.E. Sunday, pies made by Affirm committee members and friends sold out in minutes. An auction to “pie” Jay Poitras raised $2500 for PFLAG Halton, reflecting the church’s ongoing commitment to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Port Nelson has an ongoing relationship with Six Nations Polytechnic in Brantford, Ontario. They partnered with this post-secondary institution in 2018 to present a weekend of workshops on Indigenous culture. A fund was established to provide $1000 annually in support of graduating students from the Indigenous Languages Program.
The members of the Affirm Ministry of Port Nelson have frequently been asked by United Church congregations in Southern Ontario to provide advice and support on the Affirming process. These consultations have taken the form of emails, Zoom meetings, and in-person visits to congregations.
How does God feel about Queer People? We asked ministers from denominations all over Canada to find out. Here’s what they said: God loves Queer People. The idea that all Canadian churches are hostile to the queer community is simply false, as these ministers and Moderators of the major denominations make clear. So what can you do? Contact your local politicians and let them know you do not condone hatred against queer people. Share it on social media and post this video to your church website. Let the world know that God is love, and God loves people of all sexualities and genders.
What can I expect when I join an online gathering?
Our online gatherings continue to evolve but here is what you can expect if you join: I (Michiko) will be acting as the host and ensure that people are welcomed into the space, their tech is working, and help facilitate introductions and checking in. As facilitator, I like to introduce a topic for discussion or a question for each of us to answer. The format is casual, encouraging people to bring their own thoughts or questions into the conversation. You are welcome to participate in whatever way feels most comfortable to you. However you show up and are present is part of being in community.
Are monthly meetings not the space you need right now?
You are always welcome to be in touch with me to set up a time for a one-on-one conversation. I understand that there might be certain topics that feel easier to address when you don’t have to worry about larger group dynamics or that the dates set aren’t the best for your schedule.
What can I expect when I join an online gathering? Our online gatherings continue to evolve but here is what you can expect if you join: I (Michiko) will be acting as the host and ensure that people are welcomed into the space, their tech is working, and help facilitate introductions and checking in. As facilitator, I like to introduce a topic for discussion or a question for each of us to answer. The format is casual, encouraging people to bring their own thoughts or questions into the conversation. You are welcome to participate in whatever way feels most comfortable to you. However you show up and are present is part of being in community.
Are monthly meetings not the space you need right now? You are always welcome to be in touch with me to set up a time for a one-on-one conversation. I understand that there might be certain topics that feel easier to address when you don’t have to worry about larger group dynamics or that the dates set aren’t the best for your schedule.
This form has information about demographics, accommodations (there is a reduced rate block of hotel rooms reserved at DoubleTree Hotel in Pointe Claire under the code: Affirm United available until June 29), billetting, car pooling, registration costs ($125 for the whole weekend, $95 for Saturday), child care, and bursary support.
There will be another form for joining virtually coming soon.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email M at email@example.com
If your Affirming Ministry is celebrating this month, or if you’ve held events this past year and have pictures and videos to share, we want to see them! We want to share together in this time of celebration, and challenge hateful rhetoric. The pictures and videos sent along by our Affirming Ministries will be included in a video to be shared at our Annual General Meeting and beyond, so we can celebrate the joy and success of each ministry’s pride.
These images may be shared by Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble on social media and beyond, so please be cognizant when selecting which images to send us and ensure you have permission for those pictured. Pictures and short videos can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
While the deadline to have your images included in the AGM video is July 7, feel free to keep sending them after that. Big or small, we want to see your pride this month, and always!
All are welcome to a celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry for High River United Church. The service will be outdoors behind the church. We invite you to bring a picnic lunch and stay after the service for visiting. We will provide desserts. Please bring a water bottle, chairs, sunhats, etc. We can’t wait!
Location Address: 123 MacLeod Trail S.W., High River, AB
Are you a post secondary student and queer advocate? Are you connected to a United Church community of faith, and do you work for the full inclusion of 2SLGBTQIA+ people in your church and the wider community? Then this is an opportunity for you!
Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble is excited to be offering up to four student advocates a bursary for the 2023-24 school year. The bursary amount is dependent on the number of applicants selected, but will be a minimum of $1000 each.
Bursaries from this fund will be for post-secondary students with a demonstrated financial need. Students may be attending any Canadian school, at any level (college, undergraduate, post-graduate, graduate, doctoral). This bursary is for students who are involved with a United Church of Canada community of faith or related organization, and can demonstrate a commitment to 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in their religious/spiritual community, and wider society.
After a hiatus, we’re excited to share that AU/SE’s annual volunteer recognition awards are back! We are now accepting nominations for Volunteer of the Year, Affirming Ministry of the Year, and Youth Advocate of the Year. Winners will be honoured at our AGM in July, virtually or in-person.
During this time of celebration and love, we remember that the first Pride was a protest, and we recommit ourselves to justice-seeking and advocacy for queer folks in our churches, across the country, and around the world. With a focus on justice, we head into this month honouring the joy, love, and resilience of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Be kind, stay safe, have fun, and HAPPY PRIDE!
We write to you today with a heavy heart.
We’ve all heard the news from Uganda, criminalizing homosexuality with the punishment of death. We recognize that the Churches in Uganda are supporting and upholding the government’s decision. We mourn with our Ugandan siblings.
We’ve heard the cries from our trans siblings in the United States that call out against anti-trans bills. These bills are jeopardizing their healthcare and livelihood in their home states. We pray for their wellbeing and for their safety.
We’ve joined the fight against book ban initiatives here in Canada. We work with local pride groups to support drag performers, in all their work. We rejoice with the news from Manitoba in the rejection of the call for book bans.
We hear the calls from the injustices that our community is facing. This, on the eve of Pride Month worldwide, is getting harder and harder to comprehend. We continue to support the affirming process and are looking forward to welcoming ten new communities of faith into that fold in the month of June. We will continue our advocacy work, and all the work that we are holding in our hearts within our local communities and beyond.
Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, which means it’s a great day to live out loud! Here at Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble, we support and love you no matter who you are or who you love.
It’s also a day to take action. 2SLGBTQIA people deserve safety and welcome, and we still have to fight for it. How can you help take action against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia?
· Take the pledge at It Gets Better Canada to help support their work and to show 2SLGBTQIA+ youth that their stories matter.
· Support AU/SE in our work of education, action, and support for the 2SLGBTQIA community.
· Learn about what it means to be an Affirming congregation. Check out this series from Affirming Connections about the path to becoming Affirming in a small town.
· Show up in your community: find something like your local Pride organization or a queer youth centre and show up for them. They need your time, resources, and support! Just ask them what they need and how you can help.
· Start planning your Pride Sunday service! Check out these resources from the United Church of Canada.
How are you taking action against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia?
Hi, I’m Alix (she/her), your new Executive Director of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble! I am thrilled to be joining the AU/SE team, and can’t wait to help lead this organization into a bold new chapter of growth and advocacy.
A bit about me: I grew up and live in B.C., attending my local United Church. I have always felt called to justice-seeking, and working in a way that allows me to live out my faith values. My prior experience is varied, but includes leadership and frontline work with anti-violence organizations, fundraising, and United Church camping ministry. I have a Master of Arts in Human Security and Peacebuilding, a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Bachelor of Social Work, and am a certified Sexual Health Educator. First and foremost a follower of Christ, I am also a parent, a social worker, a performer, and an activist.
Beaconsfield United, just outside of Montreal, QC, will be our host for our first in person AGM in three years! More information will be coming, but we wanted to let you know the location ASAP so you can make your plans!
Are you an organized and motivated volunteer who wants to help us plan out the AGM? Please email M at email@example.com to see what you can do to help!
United Against Hate: faithfully responding to anti-2SLGBTQ+ actions
Wednesday, February 15
6:00pm MT, 7:00pm Central, 8:00pm ET, 5:00pm PT
As a special United In Learning event, join Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble and Affirming Connections to learn about the malicious misinformation campaign and threats that have been launched against the drag and 2SLGBTQ+ communities across Canada – and what you can do.
Our panelists will address some of the dangerous myths circulating around drag, trans and other queer identities; look at recent Canadian online and in-person instances of anti 2SLGBTQ+ hate, some of which include Christian groups; and explain how these connect to wider hate, racist, and extremist anti-vaccination movements.
They will also share some ideas on what you and your community of faith can do to bring a faithful public response in your context, as well as support and care for those who need it.
– Toddy, Drag artist, standup comedian and musician
Toddy is a high energy drag artist, standup comedian and musician. Toddy is the season 1 winner of Call Me Mother on OUTTV. They have been featured at JFL Toronto, JFL Vancouver, CBCLOL, VSO’s Symphony of Terror and Toronto Pride. Trained as an opera singer, they find themself at the intersection of classical music and pop-culture, mixing them together in unique and bold ways! Toddy is a rising star in the music and comedy world; with albums for each coming out in 2023.
– Rev. Nobuko Iwai, Grosvenor Park United Church
Rev. Nobuko Iwai (she/her) (Noh-boo-koh Ee-wah-ee) is a 1.5 generation Japanese Canadian woman, born in Japan, raised across three provinces in Canada. She is the well-beloved partner of Doug, a minister, a cancer survivor, and a multi-generational preacher’s kid. In Japanese, Nobuko means woman of faith, taken from Luke 1, at the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary. She is ordained in The United Church of Canada, and has served across Saskatchewan both as intentional interim minister and in regular ministry. She enjoys trying all kinds of new experiences, isn’t much of a perfectionist, is a dog lover, zentangler, and enjoys puttering. Since 2015 she has served as ministry personnel at Grosvenor Park United Church, an Affirming ministry in Saskatoon, SK, Treaty Six.
– Hazel Woodrow, Education Facilitator at the Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Hazel Woodrow is the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s Education Facilitator. She holds bachelors degrees in sociology and social work, and brings a trauma informed approach to hate prevention, intervention, and reparation. Prior to her current role with the organization, she was a researcher and analyst with CAHN. She has appeared on podcasts and provided analysis and commentary to media, regarding her research. As a convert to Islam, Hazel’s work is strongly informed by the Holy Quran’s command to bear witness, and to seek equity and justice. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is a nonpartisan, non-profit, proudly anti-fascist organization with the mandate to counter, monitor, and expose hate promoting movements, groups, and individuals in Canada using every legal, ethical, and reasonable tool at our disposal.
Registration is free and required through the United in Learning website at the link below.
Hello Members and Supporters of Affirm United. Its King Julez here, and I’m one of your chairs on the board of directors. I’m here to talk to you about the rise of hate across our country and across our ministries. At Affirm United, we denounce this hate. This Homophobia, this Transphobia, Bi-phobia, all of it. We know that denouncing it isn’t enough, so we’re also taking action. Members of our board are meeting with folks from Affirming Connections, as well as the General Council Office at the United Church of Canada, to think about the ways that we can actively support and honour the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ folks in our communities. We are looking at providing educational resources for staff, lay people, and all of your communities to combat hate and to be able to provide safe spaces for folks in your area.
We are collaborating to build this support and to provide everything that we can, because we know that this is a difficult time, in many of our lives, and especially those of us who fall within in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
We ask that you be our eyes and ears in your various locations. We strive to protect those of you who are victims of this kind of hate and of this discrimination. But we need to know what’s going on as well. Feel free to email our Communications Coordinator, M, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our communications portal on our website. We want to know what’s going on. We want to know where it’s happening. We want to know where we can best support you. Please let us in and let us know what we can do and when we can do it.
We are here for you; we are here for all of the people who need it. We are stiving to do the best that we can, and we know that we can always do better.
Thank you for being a part of this community, and for trying your best to protect and create safe space in your communities.
We know that this hate is hard. We know that its continuing to come. We are here. We are powerful and we are strong as a community. Thank you for doing everything that you do.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), also known as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, has been observed annually (from its inception) on November 20 as a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia. It is a day to draw attention to the continued violence endured by transgender people.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. It has slowly evolved from the web-based project started by Smith into an international day of action. In 2010, TDoR was observed in over 185 cities throughout more than 20 countries.
On November 20, we remember and honour Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people killed around the world because of hatred and oppression. Affirm United/S’Affirmer Ensemble renews our commitment to fighting transphobia in all its forms.
My name is Eli (EE-lye) Carter-Morgan and I use they-them pronouns. I am here to re-introduce myself as the western Affirming Ministries Co Ordinator. I have had the honour of serving in this role since 2016, but a re-introduction is needed as I am going by a new name and pronouns.
I also hope that this time can be a learning experience for those of you who have never experienced working with someone with a non-binary identity. I am happy to answer any questions or be a part of any local (Edmonton) or online panels if that is helpful.
As a small child I was known by a derivative of my middle name, Annie, or as my double named Elizabeth Anne. With school came the need for something shorter – Elizabeth.
My teen years brought a new identity that fit me better, and I have gone by Liz ever since, though I added a Rev. Before and a Morgan to the end, marking important changes in my life.
I have never fit comfortably within the gender binary, and as time has passed, society has produced different ways of understanding and expressing this. We have always used “they/them” pronouns when unsure of someone’s gender, but it has now become more common. I am agender – which means the category of gender has little meaning when applied to myself. This is one type of non- binary, a type of transsexual.
With new times come new names. The biblical story of the call of Samuel, and the role Eli (EE- lye) plays in that story speak strongly to me, so I will begin going by the name Eli starting July 1.
I recognize that change is difficult, and I expect people will sometimes use the previous names or pronouns. The best thing to do is correct yourself quickly and move on. There is a huge difference between a slip of the tongue and the malicious misgendering that has led to media attention and discipline of employees etc.
I deeply appreciate Linda and Kim helping to support the western ministries this summer as I have been settling back into Edmonton and my new call serving Spirit West United Church.
I would love for all of the Affirming Ministries across Canada to send me a short and simple video clip!
I will use these clips to create a montage of Affirming Ministries sharing their love!
What should you do?
Take a video of your Affirming Ministry blowing a kiss. It could be one member, two members or the entire community. In the video, you will (1) reach out to your left to grab a kiss (2) turn to your right and blow a kiss in that direction. Super simple.
Please be sure to have your phone/camera landscape view.
The video file should be short enough that you can easily email it to me at email@example.com. If you have any problems uploading, please send me an email and we’ll find another way.
I need all videos by end of day on Sunday, June 12th.
I will put them together and have a completed video by Friday, June 17th. Feel free to use it in your Pride or Affirming Ministry services.
Join us on July 14-17 for our AGM! Come as a voting representative from your community of faith, or grab your own membership and represent as yourself with a vote! More details to come, stay tuned! See you there!
Affirm United / S’affirmer Ensemble is working with two consultants, Brian Hoessler and Kit Loewen, to help us imagine what our organization can be and develop a plan for the coming years. Over the next few months, Brian and Kit will be consulting and engaging with the AUSE Council, staff, members, and other key stakeholders to identify the organization’s root causes of success, articulate new directions, and identify pathways forward.
Today, you’ll meet Kit!
Kit Loewen (She/Her, B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed) lives with her family in Saskatoon, on the traditional territory of the Plains Cree (Nēhiyawak), Saulteaux, Dakota and Nakoda people bound by the commitments made in Treaty 6. Kit’s home rests on land settled by La Prairie Round/Prairie Métis settlements, including Road Allowance communities.
Among other things, Kit is a consultant committed to working with non-profit organizations to support their vitality in their communities through a variety of organizational development approaches (which include governance refinement, strategy work, and non-profit life cycles). Kit is an active member of St. Martin’s United Church, where she is currently a member of the Affirming Action Group and Chair of the Ministry and Personnel Committee. Currently, she is pleased to sit as an ally-member of the Board of OUTSaskatoon, whose mission is to “To uplift 2SLGBTQ people by leading, serving, and supporting in a dynamic community.”
Affirm United / S’affirmer Ensemble grieves the news of multiple hateful attacks on our communities of faith that are working to live into their present or pending Affirming Status.
We pray for St. Andrew’s United Church in Hamilton ON, who had racist stickers placed on their church sign.
We pray for the community of First United Church in Fort Saskatchewan, AB who had their Pride flag stolen.
We pray for Metropolitan United Church in Toronto, ON who had vandalism using homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti.
We pray for St. Luke’s United Church in Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia, whose Pride flag was torn down and a stone thrown through the glass door of the church building.
We pray for Scarboro United Church in Calgary, Alberta, who had their Pride banner damaged by cuts and burn marks along with the word “repent” written in black marker.
We at Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble aim to Educate, provide Action and Support people of all sexual orientations and genders, and sexes in finding support and community within The United Church of Canada. We encourage all communities of faith to become PIE: Public, Intentional and Explicit. This means being Public: Being out and proud! Using symbols, signs and words which are echoed outside and inside the church building, in all facets of church life; Intentional: An Affirming ministry is deliberate in their process of study, education and dialogue with members of their faith community. They ensure that the history of oppression and discrimination by the Church is both understood and acknowledged, and that continued growth, education, and celebration are part of its ministry; and Explicit: An Affirming ministry is very clear about who it welcomes. It names queer, trans, and Two Spirit people and the gifts they are.
We understand that being PIE can be difficult. But we take solace in the messages that came after these hateful attacks – at St. Luke’s where the Pride flag was torn, Rev. Rick Gunn said in a statement on facebook “We may never know what was going through this man’s head or heart. Tearing down a Pride flag is a message all on its own, however.” Rev. Gunn encouraged his community of faith to pray for the perpetrator.
Similarly, at Scarboro United, where their banner was damaged by cuts and burn marks, Rev. Erin Klassen said, “This most recent experience is an important reminder that being an Affirming Congregation, an Affirming Region, an Affirming Denomination, an Affirming Society, does not happen by accident and should not be taken for granted. It requires intention, discernment, agency, and action.”
We pray for these communities of faith and stand in solidarity with our siblings in the LGBTQQIA+ and Two Spirit communities that continue to be the target of hate crimes. We remember and proclaim our commitment to working for justice and inclusion for all. We will continue to strive for peace and equity for all people through our daily actions in church and community.
Affirm United / S’affirmer Ensemble is working with two consultants, Brian Hoessler and Kit Loewen, to help us imagine what our organization can be and develop a plan for the coming years. Over the next few months, Brian and Kit will be consulting and engaging with the AUSE Council, staff, members, and other key stakeholders to identify the organization’s root causes of success, articulate new directions, and identify pathways forward.
Today, you’ll meet Brian!
Brian Hoessler (He/They, B.Sc, M.A) is an independent consultant who enjoys working with individuals, groups, organizations, and communities to build their capacity to make positive change in the world. He is the Founder and Principal Consultant for Strong Roots Consulting, a firm based in Saskatoon on Treaty 6 territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis.
Over the past decade, Brian has worked with over 30 non-profit organizations, government agencies, and multi-stakeholder initiatives in the areas of program evaluation, organizational capacity-building, and strategic planning.
Brian grew up in Winnipeg and as an adult has lived in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Kingston (Ontario) before moving to Saskatoon in 2012. He is currently an adherent with SSUC-Saskatoon (formerly Meewasin Valley United Church), where he participated in the congregation’s process of becoming an Affirming Ministry.
Originally from Portland, Oregon; Michelle came to Vancouver, BC in 2011 as a student at Capilano University. Shortly being introduced to St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church by a friend who was part of the gospel choir, Michelle quickly felt at home as she became involved in the choir which led her to reignite her love of singing.
Becoming a member of St. Andrew’s Wesley United (STAW) in 2014, has given Michelle the space to flourish spiritually by becoming involved in ministries such as the Word Is Out (LGBTQ2S+) as an ally and helping with the planning of their summer conference of SpiritPride that takes place leading up to Pride Weekend in Vancouver; acting as Chair of the Affirm Committee when STAW decided to embark on the journey of becoming an affirming congregation in 2013, to becoming involved in various events for the TRC, helping refugees and their families settle into Canada to supporting community ministries such as The Chapel, a space within STAW that offers a place for the community to come together in storytelling, faith and music. She also sits on the church board as Secretary. (Michelle jokes fondly that she is an uber church geek 🤓)
Having found that Vancouver was where her heart was, she became a permanent resident in 2020 and looks forward to becoming a citizen in the future. Most recently she has stepped into the role of Office Administrator at Pacific Spirit United (formerly: Ryerson/Dunbar United) and loves working with the ministry team and getting to know the welcoming congregation there.
In her spare time, Michelle enjoys discovering new music, going to concerts, volunteering in the community, singing in SummerChor and traveling with friends.
*Little known fact: Michelle is in the Guiness Book of World Records for being part of the largest Zombie Walk in the US, that took place in Seattle, Washington***
This week, you’ll be meeting Linda, our Coordinator of the Affirming Ministry Program!
Linda, a United Church member by birth and by choice, has worked/volunteered at all levels of The United Church of Canada with children, youth and adults, mainly in the areas of Resource Ministry and Affirm United’s Affirming Ministries Program. She is a member of Sydenham Street United Church in downtown Kingston, ON, an Affirming Ministry since 1999. Linda loves her contacts with ministries across Canada as a Coordinator of Affirm United’s Affirming Ministry Program since 2012. Linda and her spouse, Bruce, have two adult children and four grandchildren, and enjoy being together . . . . gardening, walking, travelling . . . and talking!!
The Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) is a day to show support for the Two-Spirit, transgender and gender diverse communities. Importantly, it is to support all those who identify as transgender. Not all Two Spirit or gender diverse folks are transgender, but some are. A piece of being a PIE ally is to listen to how folks identify and be respectful of that.
Trans Day of Visibility aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of trans people around the globe while fighting cis-sexism and transphobia by spreading knowledge and educating about gender diversity outside of the male/female binary. Unlike Transgender Day of Remembrance, this is not a day for mourning: this is a day of celebration and getting the recognition trans folks deserve! Since 2010, TDOV happens every year on March 31.
Trans folks are not only surviving but are also transforming how we understand gender. Trans and gender diverse folks are not new, and being trans is not a modern trend. Cultures from all over the world have always recognized the important and sacred role trans folks play in our various communities. In an increasingly transphobic climate, we must use the newfound visibility to mobilize trans people against oppression, especially that of transgender youth and transgender athletes.
Speaking out, taking direct action, and educating others is critical to the safety and wellbeing of Two Spirit, trans and gender diverse people. This recognizes that while visibility is important, we must take action against transphobia and cis-sexism. Visibility is not enough alone to bring gender liberation, freedom from our cis-normative world. However, we can use visibility as a vital tool for Two Spirit, transgender, and gender diverse justice.
Joyce Payne was born and raised in London, Ontario, and throughout all her life she has been a dedicated volunteer to the United Church. Joyce’s commitment and passion is for social justice. For many years Joyce has supported local politics for candidates that named social justice and equality as major components of their campaigns. Within the church Joyce lived her theology by leading out-of-the-cold meal teams for over a decade, and spent her summer holidays offering Community Vacation Bible School programs. Joyce was a trained Licensed Lay Worship Leader for 30 years and was a favoured preacher throughout Middlesex Presbytery.
Joyce was retired from her work after 38 years in 2007, as a Distribution Analyst at 3M and Imation and immediately started her full-time volunteer position as the chair of the Pastoral Relations Committee for Middlesex Presbytery.
Joyce has a deep faith and strong ethical commitments. Her unwavering commitment to God allowed her to hear the call to her volunteer roles as President of London Conference, and subsequently President of Antler River Watershed Region. Throughout her presidency she encouraged individuals and communities of faith to Bloom Where They are Planted, and to “Be Present” following the inspiration found in scripture in 2 Timothy and John 1. Joyce has been able to do this successfully throughout her life – even when adversity was obvious. She has believed in and followed the call of the God who says in 2 Timothy 2; “Be the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to God’s guests for their blessing.”
David Hall is in his second year as a Member At Large on the AUSE Council and is currently the chair of the Affirm Committee at Silver Spire United Church. With his passion and education in conducting, voice and piano, David has served as a volunteer and as staff in the music ministry of various churches including positions as an elder, moderator and facilities chair. David has been a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ Advisory Committee to the City of St. Catharines and of the Working Group for OutNiagara as well as facilitating a group of LGBTQ+ Christians and allies. David works fulltime as the VP, Manager of Health and Safety & Risk in a wood manufacturing company owned by his sister and brother-in-law. He enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, beaches and travelling with his partner Jim as well as reading, writing, gardening, baking (especially Nova Scotia molasses brown bread) and jigsaw puzzles. David lives with his partner Jim Graham in St. Catharines, Ontario where David’s family including his two daughters and son-in-law also live. David plans to retire in the next three years so he can spend more time with Jim and to travel to all the provinces and territories of Canada.
This week, you’ll be meeting Peter, our treasurer!
Born and raised a Calgarian, Peter was baptized at St. Mathews United Church in Calgary. His parents were instrumental in building the new Sanctuary where his oldest sister was the first bride to be married there in 1959. A few years later, “Religion” was put on the back burner for Peter for many many years. In 2012, Peter entered the doors of Hillhurst United, an affirming congregation, and found a new spiritual home. Today he is the Financial Administrator at Hillhurst.
A graduate of the University of Calgary in 1976, he went on to become a Chartered Account from 1979 to 2008, specializing in Financial Systems for the Not-for-Profit Sector. It was that experience that brought him to the attention of Hillhurst leadership when they were looking for a new Finance Guy as they were entering the 21st Century. In his first summer of employment, Hillhurst United was the venue for the Affirm United/ S’Affirmer Ensemble AGM and Annual Conference. Peter seemed to “jump-in” with both feet. Peter will be retiring from Hillhurst in April/2022 and will fill his time with AUSE “things”.
Hi, my name is Caitlin Smithers, She/Her pronouns. I identify as a lesbian. I am so excited to be a part of the Affirm United Council! I am a student at the Atlantic School of Theology and the Centre for Christian Studies. I am currently a Candidate for Ordained Ministry within the United Church of Canada. I am working half time in a Congregational Designated Minister position with Children, Youth and Families Ministry at a Church here in Halifax NS. This will be my third year in that paid role, and in the United Church of Canada, though I have worked for over 10 years as a volunteer with children, youth and families in the Baptist Church and United Church of Canada. I have been passionate about inclusion, love, and advocacy throughout that ministry, and my continued ministry to demonstrate and reassure people they are loved by God, unconditionally for all of who they are. I enjoy horseback riding, gardening and being out in nature. I dream of opening a garden church one day.
An official National Affirming/PIE Day event brought to you by Affirming Connections and Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble!
This years PIE Day theme is “Everyone Gets A Slice!”
Looking at the LGBTQIA2S+ acronym, which represents an endless diversity of identities and expressions, we acknowledge that some of the people who are represented by these letters often tend to get left out or underserved. Our guests panelists share their stories and expertise to invite us to consider which folks we may not have included in our Affirming programming and educational efforts and take strides to remedy that.
Come with your curiosity to meet these amazing leaders and be inspired to apply the principles of being PIE: Public, Intentional, and Explicit, in your journey to being a more Affirming person and community.
With guest panelists:
Jamie Arpin-Ricci (author, activist, and pastoral leader at Little Flowers Community)
Dieulita Datus (community organizer and co-founder of Ubuntu – Mobilizing Central Alberta)
Chris Cochrane (Trans activist, educator, public speaker, Support Service Educator for The Youth Project, and Vice Chair of Halifax Pride)
Rev. Andrea Brennan (Priest at Christ Church and Minister at Knox United Church, Fernie, BC)
This week, you’ll be meeting Julian / King Julez, our other Co-Chair!
Julian / King Julez has been a part of the AU/SE council since 2018, and became chair of the council at our 2021 AGM! They are passionate about creating equitable space, and hope to one day do that as a drag clown Reverend within The United Church of Canada. Historically, clowns have been storytellers, truth tellers, and the ones who poke fun at the people and systems in power. Bringing that energy into ministry is one way to make religion, and in King Julez’s case contemporary Christianity, more accessible.
Outside of the church, King Julez is currently working at a pet store and caring for their four cats at home. They love Christmas and Easter, and supporting local artists and businesses.
Emma Pipes is passionate about radical inclusivity and safer spaces in the Christian community. She has been involved in the United Church of Canada since being a baby and now serves in ministry! In her free time Emma enjoys hikes in nature, music and singing as well as theatre, arts and social justice work. Her favourite food is Shepherd’s Pie and Macaroni and Cheese.
Brent Alexander was born in Saskatoon, raised in Val Marie, SK and Carstairs AB. Lived, worked and studied in 5 provinces and six countries on three continents after leaving home. Sadly has not stepped foot in the other 5 provinces. Since 2018, Brent calls Leslieville, Toronto ON home, along with his husband (m. 2008) and sons (a. 2011; b. 2007 and 2009). Brent’s Proudest Gay Moment was when he presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Vancouver in 2003 while it was studying Equal Marriage and enjoying the fruits of that moment 5 years later when he wed his husband with one of the Committee of Justice members in attendance. Started attending Hillhurst UC in 2007 and officially became a member in 2010. Takes a long time for RC’s to let go of the past and embrace the future! Current member of East End United Regional Ministry. Brent is also the Lead Coordinator of Glen Rhodes Food Bank.
Starting this week, we are going to have “Meet your Board” posts posted every Saturday for you to get to know who is currently on the board! All of these posts have been written by the board members, and we hope that you’ll enjoy them!
This week is Mallory Brennan!
• Mallory Brennan once bicycled across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as part of a performing and cycling tour to promote environmental sustainability
• Mallory does not wear shoes in church unless it is a concert
• Mallory collects Christmas hats and currently has a dozen completely ridiculous hats
• Mallory has her MA in Community Music
• Mallory works year round for Welcome Friend Association’s Rainbow Camp, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ teens
Hello, members of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble!
As we continue on through this pandemic, is can be difficult to keep our eyes on the end of the tunnel. I am here to remind you of the themes of Advent that we have been observing over the last four weeks: hope, peace, joy, and love. We hope for the best future and for the safety of all. We carry the peace of Christ with us as we walk along. We seek out and find joy in the places we least expected to find it. Most importantly, we love largely, loudly, and harder than ever before.
I urge you to carry the spirit of Christmas (and the themes of Advent) with you publicly, intentionally, and explicitly as we move together into another year. The community that we share is life giving and ever affirming. We are here for you, just as you are there for one another.
You all continue to amaze me, the Board of Directors, and God, with your work and dedication to making our world a more inclusive and affirming place.
Merry Christmas, happy new year, and God be with you, amen!
Meet Anne Wood! The outgoing Treasurer of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble- Anne completed 4 years as Treasurer in July of this year. Anne and her wife Ruth recently celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary. They live in Kingston, ON, and have 2 children and 6 grandchildren who all live in the Kingston area.
Anne says that she and Ruth have benefited from the work of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble, although they do not yet belong to an Affirming Community of Faith.
Her hobbies include reading, sewing and photography. With stepping down from the board, she will have the free time to pursue several ideas for family history projects, using pictures and stories that were passed down from her grandparents and letters and pictures that were saved by Ruth’s grandparents.
Hi everyone! My name is M Chorney, and I work part time out of Winnipeg / Treaty 1 territory as AU/SE’s NEW Communications and Marketing Coordinator! My home congregation is Selkirk United, in Selkirk, Manitoba, and I grew up on a farm outside of the city. I have been involved in the Church since I was very young, and have an honours degree from the University of Manitoba in Political Science, with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. My partner and I live in downtown Winnipeg, and will be getting married next summer! I am excited to start this new role and assist AU/SE with their work. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I look forward to working with all of you!
Tomorrow morning we begin our 2021 Annual Meeting Weekend Online! Here is the link to your weekend itinerary (Make sure to look for individual links, ie. “Morning Gathering” has its own link, ID/password).
This itinerary below will guide you through our weekend together!
All are welcome to a celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry for Central Saanich United Church on Sunday June 27, 2021
Time and location will depend on COVID-19 protocols at that time. If possible it will be in person, larger venue as the church has limited capacity and there may/will be social distancing rules in effect – possibly pre-registration required. Details are still to be determined.
Alternate plans will be:
Location: Pre-recorded service posted on website on the morning of June 27th