Affirm United a proud partner of The United Church of Canada for the support of all gender identities and sexual orientations
Category: Affirming Ministries in Action
Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble has hundreds of Affirming ministries across Canada, with many more in process all the time. Have a look through this page and be inspired. And if these stories make you wonder about becoming Affirming, get in touch through the Affirming Ministry Coordinators. (See our Contact page).
Affirming ministries: We want your stories and photos! Tell us how you’re being Affirming; we want you to help others see the incredible and exciting range of work you offer. Get in touch with the Communications Coordinator and we’ll take it from there. (See our Contact page).
First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, ON became Affirming this year, and launched their public work in style. Anne Cummings of the congregation’s LGBTQ Committee writes,
“What a grand time we had at the first annual Pride Parade Party on the lawn of First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, Ontario on July 26. Because the route for London’s Pride Parade passed in front of our church, this event was organized as a way to welcome community members to our church. Some members of other United churches in the area also joined us. A hotdog lunch was served and it is estimated that we fed about 150 people. We asked for a freewill donation for the lunch with the proceeds going to the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection in London. A festive atmosphere was created with games for the children that included water, face paint, and lots of movement.
Once the parade reached our lawn, our youth were busy giving cups of lemonade and water to the marchers who were very appreciative because of the heat on the parade route. We also welcomed the marchers with our church sign which read, “We are a welcoming church with reserved seats for all. We are inclusive and affirming. This week we celebrate gay pride.”
Marching with our church banner were 16 of our members, including our Reverend Michelle Down. Many of the marchers wore church t-shirts with the rainbow Affirm logo on the front, our church logo on the back, and the words, “Welcoming All.” Our contingent was led by a car that was decorated with rainbow coloured balloons and had a playlist of joyous, affirming songs booming from the speakers. Plans are already underway for a bigger and better lawn party for next year’s Pride Parade.”
As spring emerges and the end of the 2015 school year approaches, the sight of smiling teens emerging from limousines dressed to the nines with corsages and carefully coiffed hair becomes commonplace. As teenagers, we are taught that our high school prom is meant to be the pinnacle of our high school experience, a celebration of all the hard work and growing that we have done. However, this is not the case for everyone—being anywhere under the LGBTQ umbrella can make prom an extremely stressful and even sad time. Many queer teens feel awkward expressing themselves at prom, be it by bringing a same-sex partner, wanting to wear a tux when others expect them to wear a dress, or having a whole room of straight peers stare when they dance with your date. Many are flat out not allowed. Continue reading “StarGayzers: West Island LGBTQ Youth Centre’s Queer Prom”
We at Harcourt Memorial United Church enjoyed an active spring season and pride week recently. Two members sat on the Guelph Pride Week Committee throughout the year to assist with supporting this city-wide activity that saw hundreds of people attend the myriad of events throughout the week of May 3-10.
Harcourt’s Committee planned the 2nd Annual Storytelling Series “Speaking Our Truths”. Thirteen speakers from a wide spectrum of identities shared ten minutes of their story, including three transgender individuals and one individual married to a transgender person. It was incredibly informative in helping us understand perspectives and experiences different than our own. There was laughter and tears and everything in between over 80 people listened intently to the stories.
On Sunday May 10th, we celebrated our Harcourt Affirming Service, which for the first time, was formally part of the Guelph Pride Week. Rev. Wendy Brown shared an inspiring and affirming message, the Waterloo Wellington Rainbow Chorus sang with the Harcourt Choir, and Pride Cake was enjoyed after the ceremony. It was a fitting finish to a week of Pride Activities.
Discussion and planning are in the works to combine Harcourt’s LGBTQA+ Committee with that of the Social Justice and Outreach Committee to spread the work and support between a greater number of members of Harcourt and expand our inclusive model to include the broader community.
— Julie Glass-Ashley, Chair of Harcourt LGBTQA+ Committee
Our May 2015 Human Rites conference highlighted and celebrated the progress made and conversations being had by various leaders who are using their voices to create positive and inclusive change. And it honoured the fact that active exclusion of LGBTQ people is still being experienced daily.
With over sixty registrants, and eighty to a hundred additional people attending each of our public evening events, this was the biggest and most successful faith LGBTQ conference that Alberta has seen. The conference was founded by five Affirming United Churches in Calgary (Hillhurst, Scarboro, Wild Rose, Deer Park, St. Thomas), and sponsored by many other multi-faith and community organizations.
Our program featured:
Keynote speaker Matthew Vines, best-selling author of the paradigm-shifting book “God and the Gay Christian”;
A special appearance and workshops by Ivan Coyote – award winning Canadian poet, author, and performer;
Team Canada Olympic Luger John Fennell;
A full day of multi-faith workshops including: “Deconstructing Neo-Conservative Muslim Arguments on Same Sex Unions”, “The Road to Inclusiveness”, “Let’s Start the Conversation; Evangelicals and the LGBTQ Community”, “What does it mean to be affirming?”, a multi-faith panel, and a beautiful interfaith service on Sunday morning.
With people from very different faith backgrounds and in very different places in acceptance of themselves and others, the dialogue started was so encouraging, although much sadness still lingers in the lives of those who have been excluded. Our hope is to continue this as an annual event, gaining even more partners and supporters along the way. We look forward to next year and invite you to attend!
— Pam Rocker, conference co-organizer.
What we do and say outside our buildings is crucial. Over a month after adding a rainbow flag to the front of their church, Emmanuel United Church in Waterloo, Ontario, received the following email:
“Today on my way to work I noticed your flag “All Welcome”. Not sure if it had always been there, but today it certainly caught my eye.
The message touched my heart.
The rainbow spoke volumes. I suppose I have always had a soft spot for differences and when I saw your flag today, I was touched at the open arms of your parish to all and wanted to tell you that I am so glad that you exist. In my own faith journey I witnessed intolerance, judgment, and self-righteousness, thankfully not towards myself, but it may as well have been because we are all children of God and I took that judgment of others very personally.
When I see intolerance, I speak out and when I see others open their hearts, I want to say thank you because it is this way that we can change the world from a world of anger and hatred to a world of peace and love.
Thank you for “welcoming all” and for flying your flag high to remind all who see it to do the same and to treat each other with love and kindness. I don’t have to drive by your church on my way to work, but now that I’ve seen your flag, I will go this way every day, it is worth going a little bit out of my way to see such a symbol of love and to start my day with this message!”
Thanks to Rev. Dr. Bruce Sweet for sharing this email with us.
Photographer: Arthur Hills