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.