It has just been a little over a year since we celebrated becoming an Affirming Congregation with the presentation of our certificate by Marion Best, past Moderator of the National Church. We have continued our ministry of welcome for all and partnerships with related organizations.
Our actions and commitments have included:
• Adaptation of our past logo to include a rainbow. This can be seen on our website at www.nelsonunitedchurch.ca
• Participation in the National Anti-violence Against Transgender Vigil in November. This takes place on our main street and results in awareness and inclusivity, and an awareness of the work still to do to ensure that all can be safely who they are. Our minister, David Boyd spoke at this event and has for a number of years.
• Supported financially a transgendered person who travelled to Peru to volunteer a small village and school.
• Entered a team in the annual Aids Walk in partnership with ANKORS, a local organization that supports persons living with Aids.
• The Chair of our Board was a member of a steering committee for TransConnect, a community organization to support Transgendered persons and provide education to community organizations and schools.
• Co-sponsored The World Aids Day Memorial in December. Our church hosts and facilitates this event. This is an ongoing partnership with ANKORS.
• Supported a local chapter of Grans to Grans, a fundraising group that sends money to support Grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren after family members have died from Aids.
• Participated in the annual Gay Pride March and have for 17 years since its beginning. We display our church banner and show support by “making a noise” in celebration.
• Included our new logo in all weekly bulletins, web page, newsletters and letters, and in any advertising for community events.
• Our website indicates our Affirming Church status.
• Display both a pride and transgender flag in our sanctuary.
• Display a poster on our front door bulletin board that we are an Affirming Church.
• Ensured that our Board members represent the diversity in our congregation
• Are more aware of dualities in language, i.e. male/female, gay/straight, etc.
• Created signs for our washrooms that indicate they are gender inclusive.
• Worked at remaining present in the community through the private effort of those in our congregation.
• Celebrated a one year anniversary of our Affirming Status on May 3, 2015, with an emphasis on our Transgender Community
We encourage everyone to become part of our church family. There is a Social Justice team that creates partnerships with community groups and encourages engagement by the whole Nelson and area community. As many of us are involved in other community groups, we continue to hear words of gratitude and affirmation from people that the church is open, affirming and loving.
Reflection: Language continues to be a topic of dialogue: raising the question of shifting pronouns that don’t use the binary designation of him/her; be intentional in thinking about how our language can sometimes hurt others unwittingly. We have been discussing the use of words such as inclusive and accepting and welcoming and debating whether they imply “power over” in any way. If you are depending on someone to accept or welcome you, is there a sense of inequality? We may be creating a new word to indicate the “oneness” of humanity. The use of language is discussed in worship, sermons, at the Board level, and at our ministry team levels, also. We have spoken of the importance of language at study groups and other more informal gatherings.