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.
Congratulations Port Nelson United Church!