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Here's the latest news from Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble.
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Welcome to the Affirm United newsletter, May 2018! In this edition:

Many Voices, One Song: Annual conference registration open!
AUSE and Iridesce at the Festival of Faith and General Council: display, workshops, casting call
Callout for Pride Sunday resources for the United Church
Display materials for your fab Pride presence
Invitation to participate: The LGBTQ Aging Study

New resources and events: Skylight Festival line up; Iridesce workshop and newsletter; Mandate magazine focus on gender and sexual diversity; interview with Pam Rocker; LGBTQ Christian stories

Welcome to ten new Affirming ministries in May and June!
Out and proud: the latest stories from Affirming ministries

 

“…in our goodness, in our blessed diversity, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
            God has revealed to us in this community that the beautiful
            spectrum of human sexuality and gender identities is a gift of God.
 We say to all who have been excluded because of skin color, physical and mental ability, income level, marital status, gender identity, or sexual orientation:
            “Be excluded no more!” We commit to stretching out our hands to
            those who have been stereotyped, stigmatized, labeled, and
            assigned to the margins of church and society…”

 -
Communion liturgy, Sherwood Park United Church’s Affirming celebration, April 2018. Order of service here.
Many Voices, One Song: Annual conference registration open!
Get thee to a registration form, because the amazing planning team in Toronto has opened registration for our July 13-15 annual conference and AGM in Toronto. Even if you don’t plan on coming, look at this link so you can admire the many workshops and speakers.
 
AUSE and Iridesce at the Festival of Faith and General Council: display, workshops, casting call
This summer, the United Church’s national decision-making body, General Council, will gather in Oshawa ON. Come visit both Iridesce and AUSE at the pre-General Council Festival of Faith, where we’ll have workshops to enjoy! Iridesce, The Living Apology Project, will have a featured art display of its national work and stories.
 
Casting Call: Actors and Stage-Hands at General Council in Oshawa
Iridesce, the Living Apology project, is looking for actors, stage-hands and theatre volunteers, to help us bring the stories of Iridesce to life in a final play like no other. (No experience required, all are welcome to apply). The play will be performed at 43rd General Council in Oshawa, Ontario on July 23, 2018. To be part of this theatre play, or for more info, please contact Emma at emmapipes91@gmail.com , or livingapology@gmail.com
 
Callout for Pride Sunday resources for the United Church
As you know, it has been 30 years since 1988 - when the United Church declared that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are welcome as full members and all members are eligible to be considered for ministry.
 
Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble and Iridesce: The Living Apology, are working hard on workshop resources, a theatrical production, and more for presentation at the Festival of Faith and GC43. But to help resource the whole church, we need volunteers to help with the creation of additional resources.
 

This is an open invitation for the submission of resources that communities of faith can use to celebrate Pride Sunday.  We need a worship service for congregations, as well as liturgiesprayers, and all sorts of other creative ideas on how a community of faith might engage in Pride Sunday.  Submissions no later than May 21.  Send your submissions to jsullivan@united-church.ca 
 
Display materials for your fab Pride presence
Is your ministry planning a proudly public presence at Pride? (See that alliteration thing we did there?)
Excellent! Consider using some of these handouts from AUSE, posted in a shared folder on Dropbox. (you don’t need a membership to access these.) Send the communications team a copy of your own handouts AND some photos of your beautiful selves.
Church presence at Pride celebrations makes a positive difference: thank you. (Above/ right: St Andrew's United in Moose Jaw SK gets ready for a local Pride event.) 

 
Invitation to participate: The LGBTQ Aging Study
A team at the University of British Columbia is investigating what it is like to grow older as an LGBTQ person. If you are aged 65+ and self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ), please consider this opportunity.
 
“We want to find out how you experience changes to your appearance, health, and social interactions. We also want to know if and how you experience discrimination because of your age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Participation involves two interviews, each approximately one to 1.5 hours in length.”
 
Interested? Get in touch with Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke and her research team; she is a professor at the School of Kinesiology at UBC. Please email laura.hurd.clarke@ubc.ca or call (604) 822-4281
 
New resources and events
 Skylight Festival; Iridesce workshop and newsletter; Mandate magazine focus on gender and sexual diversity; interview with Pam Rocker;  LGBTQ Christian stories. 

Skylight Festival: July 27-19 2018
After you've seen the Iridesce display and play at General Council and taken in AUSE and Iridesce workshops, head around the lake to Skylight! Check out their theme and line up, which includes a very diverse and wonderful group of resource people (right). 


Iridesce Self-Guided Workshop: Want to bring the Iridesce workshop to your community of faith? Contact us to request a Self-Guided Workshop Kit, which includes everything you need to lead or co-lead a meaningful event. Email: livingapology@gmail.com
 
Iridesce email newsletterStay up-to-date on this historic project of our church. Subscribe to the Iridesce email newsletter at www.iridesce.ca
 
Interview with Pam Rocker: David Exley and Doug Peck of London Conference say they “had the good fortune of interviewing Pam Rocker about the importance of Affirm with the world of church”. Pam is our former Council chair and was a speaker at the London Conference Youth Forum. Have a listen here.
 
Mandate magazine May editionWhere is The United Church of Canada on its Affirming journey? This special issue of Mandate focuses on LGBTIQ2S+ justice, lamenting discrimination within the church while working for a better future defined by the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Included are valuable resources for all ministries, from worship to workshops, on moving toward spiritual affirmation, healing, and renewal for all. Here’s their homepage; they had not updated their page as of our deadline but it should be done soon. You’ll be able to order both PDF and print editions. Buy extra as birthday gifts!

Our Witness: The Unheard Stories of LGBT+ Christians
The stories of LGBT+ Christians are not untold, but have often been unheard by faith leaders and communities. While so much of the conversation about LGBT+ inclusion has focused on theology and ideology, few have actually interacted with the raw, real stories and experiences of LGBT+ Christians. In this volume, LGBT+ Christian activist and theologian Brandan Robertson has brought together stories of LGBT+ Christians from around the world. Brandan spoke at the shared AUSE annual conference/ Vancouver Spirit Pride last year.  Find out more here.
 
Welcome to new Affirming ministries!
Since our March newsletter we’ve welcomed Sherwood Park United Church near Edmonton, AB. They’ve made the news, and sent us both a report of their celebration and their order of service. Please take a good look.
 
May and June continue to be popular months to hold Affirming celebrations, and in a three week span we’ll welcome ten new ministries! Please use our handy online forms to send them a message of welcome, often read out at their celebration:
Hamilton Conference
London Conference (*pending a positive annual meeting vote)
Cariboo Presbytery, BC Conference
Lakeview United Church, Calgary AB
Islington United Church, Toronto ON
Avondale United Church, Stratford ON (check out Avondale’s media coverage here!)
Calvary United Church, Prince Albert SK
Trinity United Church, Gravenhurst ON
Faith United Church, Courtice ON
Bradford United Church, Bradford ON
 
Affirming ministries in action
 First of all: Affirming ministries: make sure you’re listed here!   Lots of people travel in the summer… make sure you’re listed as a safer sacred space.
 
As Pride season approaches, many Affirming ministries are preparing floats and Pride-focused services, supporting local Pride societies, and much more. Thank you for this public witness. As noted in the display article above, send photos please!

Ashbourne in Edmonton, which offers Affirming assisted and independent living, is offering an intergenerational dialogue series.  (Right). Thanks for this important age-crossing space. 

Congrats and thanks to
New Vision United (Hamilton ON) and member Dixon Challoner for their great opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator! Amen to this: “In New Vision's Affirming ministry, we see the joy in, and the need for, affirming faith community often. I recall speaking with a non-binary youth after an LGBTQ+-focussed worship service. The young person began to sob as their realization of the safety and acceptance of the space allowed them to begin processing the rejection that they had experienced from family and friends. The reassurance that they were seen, and known, and loved within the context of a faith community began to shift how they saw themselves, nurturing a renewed sense of worth.”

Riverside United Church in London offered a May 1  panel discussion on how the gender binary has shaped the Christian faith, how conversations are reshaping it,  and the effects of community dynamics on individuals along the spectrum of gender identity.  with Rev. Bruce Lee, Metropolitan Community Church; Jennifer Wenn and Rev. David Exley, Riverside United Church; moderated by Rev. Greg Smith, Faculty of Theology, Huron College. 
 

 
Central United Church in Moncton NB celebrates their second Affirming anniversary. 
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