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Here's the latest news from Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble.
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In this edition:
Council thanks Meewasin Valley United Church for its generous donation
One Voices, Many Songs: annual conference report and thank you
General Council; Festival of Faith; Iridesce play
Intersectional conversations: racism and a kairos moment at General Council

Upcoming and ongoing:

Do you like PIE? Hold the date notice, 14 March  2019!
Individual AUSE memberships: yes, we have them!
Advocacy updates
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Fall Affirming ministry celebrations! Nine and counting
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Affirming ministries updates and action
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Resources, resources:
 French infographic; Mandate magazine; 18 by 18 project in Living Waters presbytery; My Faith spoken word video; Belonging in the Body movie; trans Christians and faith; song leadership for trans voices; LGBTQIA words and ASL.
Friends, we had a busy summer! Affirming celebrations slowed down a little; then we moved right into Pride celebrations; then we had our AGM and annual conference in Toronto; from there, we and the Living Apology project moved on over to Oshawa ON for the United Church’s Festival of Faith for workshop leadership; then on to General Council, display space, and the Living Apology play launch.

Now we have a final few Pride festivals, and the beginning of many Fall Affirming celebrations. We have many new resources from our wider community to animate our fall work.

Now you know why this edition is so big. Read on and enjoy! 
Council thanks Meewasin Valley United Church for its generous donation
AUSE is deeply humbled and grateful to have received a generous legacy donation from Meewasin Valley United Church, an Affirming ministry in Saskatoon. Thank you to the community of Meewasin Valley United Church for thinking of Affirm United as you journey towards closure. We are honoured that you have blessed us with this opportunity to live out part of your legacy in the areas of education and social justice. We at Affirm United are inspired by Meewasin Valley's support, which has shown us that there are many ways in which a community of faith can live out a commitment to being an Affirming ministry. (Above: the people of Meewasin Valley UC receiving their certificate at their April 2016 Affirming celebration.) 

One Voice, Many Songs: annual conference report and thank you
We are a movement separated by geography for much of the year, and this annual gathering is an important point of connection and renewal. Join us vicariously and read all about it: Many thanks to Julie McGonegal for her report on the conference and program. Have a look at some photos here(Right: David Kai sharing the gift of his original song, We Are a Rainbow). 

AUSE would like above all to thank the fabulous planning team and our warm hosts, Royal York Road United Church, and Toronto Conference. These generous and talented people pulled together both the program and the logistics for our gathering, and ensured a warm welcome to a beautifully planned agenda and speakers. They made our time together rich and thought-provoking. 

Our deep thanks to: Carol Smiley, Sandra Connery, Bob Bingham, Douglas Brownlee (all from Royal York Road United Church), John Joseph Mastandrea, Amanda Christie, Anne Hepburn, Cheryl-Lynn MacPherson, Cynthia O’Connell, John Ross, Michiko Bown-Kai, Warren Schell, Lori Neale (General Council Office), Susie Henderson (Toronto Conference Office), and Warren McDougall. Thanks to generous support from Toronto Conference, Warren McDougall, a supposedly retired minister and former AUSE Council member, was staff to our conference.  (This is a luxury we’d love to get accustomed to.) Thank you again to all these generous people for your ministry of holy hospitality and education. 

July continued: General Council; Festival of Faith; Iridesce play
From the annual conference we moved right on to General Council in Oshawa, ON. This included the Festival of Faith, a celebration of arts and engagement in a faith context. Both the Living Apology project and AUSE offered workshops, and the play Trans-Script was performed. There were rich conversations at each of these, including those for whom these conversations are new.

Iridesce and AUSE both offered displays to General Council commissioners and visitors, and these were important points of connecting and conversation. Iridesce was interviewed by General Council news- watch it here.

On July 23, Iridesce: the Living Apology’s play was performed for the first time—an impressive feat, considering its first ever in person rehearsal happened about five hours before. You can watch the whole thing here, and if you’d like to consider putting the play on in your ministry, get in touch with Iridesce! The script is available. Thank you to all who contributed through writing, story telling, and being on or behind the stage. (Above and right: The lovely musicians and composer for the featured Iridesce theatre song; some of the writers, dreamers, cast, crew, and conversation facilitators: Top left to right: Writer Emma Pipes; Julie Graham; Evan Smith. Bottom left to right: Aaron Miechkota, Jess Swance, Michiko Bown-Kai.)


Intersectional conversations: racism and a kairos moment at General Council
A kairos moment is a door from ordinary, linear, chronos time to sacred and transformative time. Such a moment took place in the closing hours of the 43rd General Council, when the Moderator invited people of colour and Indigenous people to come to the mics and tell their stories as racialized people in the United Church of Canada.

The LGBTQIA+ community in Canada is no more free of White privilege and racism than the rest of the church or the rest of the country is. The sacred place where our diverse genders and sexualities meet diverse racial identities is one we must seek as an Affirming movement. Often it’s a painful place, as well as a growing place, as we saw a couple of years when queer and trans members of Black Lives Matter stopped the Toronto Pride parade in order to have their perspectives and experiences heard. The backlash from many in the LGBTQIA community was strong, and is still unresolved. 

You are invited to sit down with some tea, use the link above, and absorb these two hours of sacred storytelling. Your reflections on what this moment might teach the Affirming movement are most welcome. You can use our contact forms, or our Facebook group to share your thoughts.


Upcoming!

Do you like PIE? Hold the date notice, 14 March  2019!
Public. Intentional. Explicit. Those are the standards we hold ourselves and our welcome to when we become Affirming or affirming. (Logo by Pam Rocker)

On International Pi Day 2019 (3.14- get it?)  we invite you to serve up some pie and PIE in your ministry and community.  Just one example: Show AUSE's new video-to-be featuring your stories about being PIE. Tell your own PIE stories: examples of your LGBTQ+ welcome that are and have been public, intentional, and explicit. Host a community open mic/ coffeehouse for all stories. Eat lots of delish church pie (and everything else you consider delicious). Together, spend, say, a half hour talking about how LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit rights and dignity could be advanced in your context and community.

Come up with some bite sized ideas (oh, hahaha) and note them down for ongoing action.  Fundraise/ awareness raise for your local Pride and LGBTQ groups. Put the proceeds wherever you want. Put in a good word for Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble and Calgary's awesome Affirming Connections, our partner. 

Whatever you do: don't give up PIE for Lent, and watch www.ause.ca for more information and materials.  Contact the communications coordinator at communications@ause.ca with your ideas,  questions, and recipes. 


Individual AUSE memberships: yes, we have them!
We had some rich and intense discussions at the well-attended annual general meeting. One topic that emerged throughout the AGM and conference was the importance of individual memberships. Yes, we have them! All Affirming ministries (and many ministries in the process) take out organizational memberships of $100 a year, which helps fund the entire organization and forms the core of the budget needed to help keep the network in touch and supported, our governance healthy  (and legal),  and ministries in the process engaged and encouraged.  With over 120 ministries currently in the Affirming process, that's a lot of work. Donations and memberships are a big part of giving AUSE the resources it needs to do our work.  (Right/ above: People like this amazing crew of Knox United people at Brandon Pride 2018 keep us going.)

So, it might sound like individual memberships aren't needed. But they too offer funds to a tight budget and, much more importantly, are a sign of solidarity and support in the midst of work that can still be hard and isolating. Memberships of all kinds are the core of this shared movement. Membership also lets you vote at our AGM. If you become a PAR donor above $40 per year, your membership fee is automatically waived. And if $40 per year is more than you can afford, AUSE is happy to reduce or remove the fee. Your spirit and solidarity as part of our family are what we need. 


Advocacy updates
Dignity Initiative human rights roundtable: On June 1 and 2, over 50 representatives of 30 organizations gathered in Ottawa for a series of conversations about Canadian civil society and global movements for human rights for LGBTI people. The second day also included presentations and discussions with representatives of Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and a key note address from Parliamentary Secretary for International Development, Karina Gould, MP.  Read the summary report here

A disturbing reality facing LGBTQIA people seeking refuge has emerged from Turkey: straight and cisgendered people using their stories for their own claims.  This adds to the enormous risk already facing LGBTQIA asylum seekers, as detailed by Rainbow Railroad at our annual conference this year. 

Fall Affirming ministry celebrations!
Here we go: nine Affirming celebrations are scheduled for this Fall!  Our family is growing from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Please take a moment to send a message of welcome via the secure forms on our Celebrations page

Grace United Church, in Lloydminster AB on September 8 and 9
Central United Church, in Brandon MB
Dunsford United Church, Dunsford ON
Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver BC
Wesley United Church, Regina SK
Kawartha Highlands Presbytery (Bay of Quinte Conference, ON)
Sackville United Church, Sackville NB (at right/ above, at the June 2018 Sackville Pride parade)
Gladwin Heights United Church, Abbotsford, BC
Greenwood United Church, Baddeck, NS

Welcome, friends! We look forward to sharing in ministry with you in a new way. Thank you many times over for your commitment to safer sacred space. 


Affirming ministries doing their thang

It's still summer (YES it is) and it's still Pride season, and many of our Affirming and ally ministries are out and about, being proud and present. Presence at Pride in many forms remains a crucial public ministry and witness, a small and vital resistance to centuries of homophobia and transphobia committed in Christ's name. May this photo album sampling just some of our shared creativity give you hope.  Right: Trinity United Church in Montreal and its senior's group getting ready for Fierté  Pride Montreal. 

Kamloops United Church in BC  hit the news for its support of Pride Week 2018.  Did you ministry make the media? Send us a link so we can feature it! (Sometimes Google News Alerts miss your good work.)

Resources, resources, resources
We begin a new program year with a big harvest of excellent resources for radical inclusion, for everyone from preachers to study groups to choir leaders. 

We’ll start with homegrown Affirming ministry and United Church titles:

Mandate magazine, LGBTQIA+ justice focus: This edition sold like rainbow hotcakes at the AUSE annual conference this summer. And feedback has been great. There’s something for every church group and individual.  Order your copy!

18 by 18 project, Living Waters Presbytery: This Affirming presbytery writes, ‘18X18’ is a goal to have at least 18 of our presbytery ministries declared or at least engaged in the Affirming Ministry Program by the end of December 2018.” Have a look here, and contact them for more info. Similar programs in Alberta and in Bay of Quinte Conference have been very successful; contact AUSE and we can put you in touch. (Above right: Bala-Port Carling UC in the Muskoka area, ON, with their booth at Muskoka Pride 2018.

My Faith- spoken word video from McKillop United Church’s Unabridged LGBTQ+ Spirituality Festival. See it here.

And resources from partner and like-minded groups:

Video: Belonging in the Body- Transgender Journeys of Faith. This 53 minute video from Generous Space ministries was screened at the AUSE annual conference. Here’s the trailer. This is an important and moving resource, and it can be downloaded from their shop by donation. Or, you can contact a Generous Space local group and ask them to come screen the video and tell their stories. See

Book: Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Reviews here. If you’ve read this book, we’d love to hear from you!

The Singing Teacher's Guide to Transgender Voices: choristers and music director, get thee to this book!

LGBTQ language basics in American Sign Language: Our ever-evolving ways of describing our diverse community, brought to you in ASL!

 
Pop up Affirming witness at Dundas Square, downtown Toronto, as part of the AUSE 2018 conference.
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