By Paul Kneebone, Affirming Ministry team member at Westminster United
Westminster United Church in Whitby, ON is pleased to announce that they are now officially an Affirming congregation. Now onto to further “being affirming”!
A number of folks at Westminster first met informally in March-April 2014. This was after some of us had attended an Affirm United-sponsored workshop at Dunbarton-Fairport United Church in Pickering in January/2014. A-Team members also subsequently attended other all-day Affirming workshops in Kingston and Peterborough that were held by Bay of Quinte Conference, itself an Affirming ministry.
We held our first full meeting of the “A-Team” in June 2014, then recessed for the summer. We started in earnest fall 2014 and we became a closely-connected group of 7 individuals, plus our minister, Rev. Michelle Robinson. With one or two exceptions, we met at each other’s’ homes for meetings over 30 times. During the next 13-14 months, the A-Team sponsored a number of special after-service Sunday events, including two films and group discussions. We had guest speakers during Sunday services, including two from PFLAG Durham, and most of the group attended a number of monthly PFLAG meetings.
A few members of the A-Team and one or two congregation members also gave testimonials during service. We had an information table in the church lobby, including rotating posters and quotes that kept these thought-provoking discussions top-of-mind with church attendees. Every Sunday service, we submitted a brief LGBTQ-related prayer during the prayers of the people segment.
All A-Team members wore “Open Hearts-Open Minds” 4-colour buttons and rainbow/cross lapel pins were given out. All of this was designed to encourage dialogue and discussion. In November 2015, there was a congregational vote held during Sunday service on our new brand new Statement of Inclusion. It passed by over 92%.
In February 2016, as part of our annual congregation meeting, we held our Affirming vote. It received 100% support! We held our Celebration Sunday on May 15th, including Judy Amsbury from Affirm United making the official presentation of the AU certificate. Lorne Coe (MPP – Whitby-Oshawa and congregation member) and Steve Yamada (Town of
Whitby councillor – on behalf of Mayor) also presented Westminster with congratulatory certificates.
After service, we all enjoyed over 200 multi-colour iced cupcakes in the shape of a rainbow and refreshments in the gym. Now the A-Team has disbanded and a new Diversity committee will convene in June to carry on “being Affirmed” at Westminster. On June 5th we participate in the first ecumenical church service at Pride Day Durham (held in downtown Oshawa), and we’ll march in the parade.
Westminster is proud to be the 2nd Affirming congregation in Lakeridge Presbytery and part of the growing list of 150+ United Church Affirming ministries in Canada!