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Welcome to your September 2019 newsletter from Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble!
In this edition: 

Annual conference 2019: Disruptive Faith videos, photos, and more
Announcing PIE Day 2020!
Federal election and Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ conversations
Thank you to those sponsoring LGBTQIA+ refugees

Our annual report for 2018 and the first half of 2019
Queer hymn collection: Songs for the Holy Other

Upcoming Affirming ministry celebrations

Affirming ministries and Pride 2019 in photos
O Holy One … you gifted all people with inherent dignity and worth…. We ask that you bless those who are persecuted in this community and around the world, and that you pour out your mercy and grace on all your children, who were made in your image. -- A prayer for Pride, Westminster United Church, Humboldt SK. 
Annual conference: Disruptive Faith videos, photos, and more
We had a great time at Hillhurst United Church in Calgary July 26-28! 75 adults and about ten kids registered, and we had more people join us for Harlan Pruden’s intro to Two Spirit identities, worship, and the Caretakers theatrical reading. Deep thanks to the beautiful hospitality of the Hillhurst community. You made the gathering gracious, very open, very worshipful, very insightful and thought provoking, and very creative. Thank you.

And, we have the whole thing on video! Thanks to the amazing tech team at Hillhurst, the whole conference was livestreamed and archived. All of the generous presenters and leaders agreed that the videos can be shared free of charge. Please take the time over the fall to review some of the videos that you think would speak to you or your community, and set up a video night. From GSAs to social media pro tips; Two Spirit identities to LGBTQIA refugees; from worship to biblical engagement and self-care, it’s all here. Please enjoy. Check out:

Photos: Many thanks to John Loney for sharing his photos of the weekend with us! You can find them on Google Drive.

Announcing PIE Day 2020!
Get your recipes/ ice cream/ creative planning tools ready. PIE Day 2020, Saturday March 14, was approved by the AUSE Council at its July meeting.

We’ll update our online home, over the next few months, and many of the resources there, including our PIE video, are still totally usable.

 All can participate: you do not need to be part of an Affirming ministry; you don’t need to be United Church; and pie substitutes are welcome. You just need to be enthusiastic about a Public, Intentional, and Explicit celebration of diverse genders and sexualities in your community and place of worship. That’s all. Have at it!

This year we hope to draw the circle wider, with a stronger ecumenical and interfaith focus. Much more info to come- mark your calendars, dream of dessert, and start discerning how you can spread PIE love in your community!

Federal election and Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ conversations
This October we’ll collectively elect a new federal government. Just as elected officials have responsibilities, so do their communities. People of faith are called to live out the responsibilities of citizenship and of discipleship. The national church is preparing an election kit of questions and background info that can be used to talk through issues of importance with your riding’s candidates. One of those sets of questions will focus on so-called conversion therapy, in which pseudo medical or counselling practices are used to try to change someone’s LGBTQIA+ identity. The results are often deeply damaging and can include suicide. This practice continues in Canada, and the federal government recently refused to use Health Canada powers to ban it.

 Keep checking here for updates. Watch our Facebook page and our website for announcements as soon as the resource is ready.

Thank you to those sponsoring LGBTQIA+ refugees
Over the summer some urgent calls for sponsorship were sent out by the United Church, one of the few faith-based sponsorship agreement holders working with the federal government’s LGBTQIA+ program. Deep thanks to ministries who offered to work alongside the government and people seeking refuge. Unfortunately, this need will not diminish any time soon. Please prayerfully consider what your ministry can offer into the future. As more United communities of faith sponsor, we can also help and mentor each other better understand the particular needs of LGBTQIA refugees. Here’s an overview of United Church work.

Many people fleeing violence of different kinds come to Kenya, which has allowed in millions of refugees over the years. As Canada heads into a federal election and contends with false claims of “mass immigration” or “out of control refugee numbers”, may we remember all that Kenya has done. At the same time, Kenya and its many refugee camps are an increasingly unsafe space for queer and trans people, leading United Nations agencies to call for resettlement for more refugees. This is why your sponsorship and support are crucial at this time.

Photo: Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko, a courageous LGBTQ community and advocacy group in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has faced recent threats, forcing some members to flee temporarily or permanently. 

These are in addition to the videos, PIE planning helps, and the federal election kit named above.

Our annual report for 2018 and the first half of 2019
This is your chance to enjoy an overview of some of the things your support accomplished. Thank you! Download the full PDF here.

If you’re in an Affirming, in process, or membership ministry, please think about how you can share this report. It’s a key connecting point between your vital local ministry, and the work of the national movement.

Queer hymn collection: Songs for the Holy Other
Cedar Klassen is queer, Mennonite, and one of a handful of people who decided to fill a gap. Together they compiled a collection of queer and trans friendly hymns.

Canadian Mennonite magazine notes, “Klassen said the collection is made up of hymns celebrating the LGBTQ+ community within the church and lamenting harms done against its members in the name of Christ. Simply put, “Songs for the Holy Other is exclusively content that speaks to our community,” Klassen said…  “To fully include any group in the full life of a church, they need to be represented in the songs we sing. Hymns shape our faith, they shape our theology; singing together builds community. If we’re not represented in the hymns we sing, then we’re not represented in the full life of the church.”

The hymns also avoid using pronouns for God and binary language for humans like “he” and “her,” and they avoid “kingdom” and “Lord” language.”

Access a free 60 day trial from the Hymn Society here. Congrats to Canadians M.E. Kish and David Kai, among others, for their inclusion in this exciting resource!

Upcoming Affirming ministry celebrations
These communities of faith are formally joining the circle, carrying on the work they already offer our communities:
Smithers United Church, Smithers BC, celebrating September 15. Send them a message of welcome here!

Westminster United Church, Shoal Lake, MB, celebrating September 22.  Send them a message of welcome here. 

Pacific Spirit United Church,
Vancouver BC, celebrating 22 September. Send them a message of congratulations here

Rideau Park United Church, Ottawa, September 29. Send them a message of congratulations here

Windermere United Church, Toronto, also  celebrating on September 29. Send them a message of welcome here

Thank you, friends and ministries, for this holy commitment to safer sacred spaces! We look forward to continuing the journey together. Above right: Cambridge Street United Church. Lindsay ON, receives their Affirming certificate from Linda Hutchinson this July. Congratulations! 

Affirming ministries work: Pride 2019 in photos

Have a look! More to come. (Right: Beautiful Montreal United Churches at Fierté / Pride Montreal 2019)

Living out a radical welcome means being public about it, and Pride is an ideal time to be fabulously out. From May to September, Canadian communities small and large host Pride festivals, and the number keeps growing. These volunteer-run festivals are a vital contribution to the health of Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ people and communities. In small, rural, or remote communities especially, they offer much needed space. In communities where everyone knows you, they also demand exceptional courage. It’s in these smaller communities that Pride is seeing the most rapid and extensive growth. (If you can, donate or volunteer to support your local Pride Society.)

A supportive Christian presence at these gatherings makes a real difference, and many Affirming ministries plan months in advance for their presence at Pride. As the season draws to a close in September, take a moment to enjoy these photos and celebrate your witness and plan for next year.

A heartfelt thank you to the dozens of United Church communities and thousands of Christian individuals who attended and supported Pride festivals across the land in 2019. Deep thanks to those who faced down protesters with love, grace, and creativity. Thanks to all who sent in photos, and send more please: (preferably through Dropbox or Google Drive).

Sharing in the circle at the Starting the Affirming Journey workshop, AUSE annual conference at Hillhurst United Church, Calgary. 
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