St. Andrew’s United Church
Our "Re-Affirming" Journey
In October 2016, St. Andrew's (Westwood) became the 170th Affirming congregation in
The United Church of Canada. Since that time, many more congregations have taken this step,
and we congratulate each one. The article below tells a bit of our story:
Why Be Affirming?
(by Rev. Don McLean, with and for the Re-Affirm group)
When our Re-Affirm Study Group began this process in 2009, it was agreed to study the issues by following the guidelines offered by Affirm United/S'affirmer Ensemble (AU/SE). Through countless meetings and workshops, much study and prayer, we have worked through many issues, debated questions, and reflected on the kind of church family we believe God is calling St. Andrew’s to be. Over the years, we made various presentations to the congregation during Worship services, and made printed and other resource materials available.
Being Affirming goes deeper than being welcoming, by showing our commitment to diversity and inclusion through our actions, actions that are public, intentional and explicit. We put into action our conviction that God’s love welcomes all, without limit or restriction. We deliberately declare our congregation to be a safe haven for all who are on the margins.
Early in 2016, the Session (Elders) of St. Andrew’s gave approval for our congregation to begin the formal process of inquiry. This process helps to clarify why a congregation would go through this formal process, rather than just saying that “yes, we are welcoming.”
Thus, we crafted a Vision Statement (building on the Pastoral Charge’s existing Mission Statement) and developed an action plan (below). The Affirming Vision Statement was adopted by Session in September 2016, and, agreeing that it reflects who we have been and want to be as a congregation, the congregation (October 2, 2016) agreed that St. Andrew’s United (Westwood) join Affirm United/S'affirmer Ensemble (AU/SE), and be an Affirming Ministry within the United Church.
As an Affirming Congregation, we are part of a growing network of justice-oriented ministries and individuals within the United Church, engaging in community growth, solidarity, theological reflection, & resource sharing. With other United Church congregations and ministries, we contribute a nominal annual membership fee to support the work of AU/SE in the church and wider community.
The steps we have taken toward becoming an Affirming Ministry:
1. Adopted an inclusive marriage policy (2006)
2. Convened an Affirm United study group (2009)
3. Session (Elders) approved a motion to formally enter the Affirming process (Feb 17, 2016)
4. Prepared an Affirming Vision Statement for the congregation (approved by AU/SE August, 2016)
5. Prepare a continuing Plan of Action for the St. Andrew’s Re-Affirm Group (approved by AU/SE September, 2016)
6. Affirming Vision Statement adopted by Session (September 14, 2016)
7. Agreed to be an Affirming Ministry within The United Church of Canada. (Oct 2, 2016)
8. Held a public service of celebration. (Sunday May 7, 2017 @ 7 pm)
St. Andrew’s United Church (Westwood)
Affirming Vision Statement *
We, the people of St. Andrew’s United Church, Westwood are
striving to be a Christian community.
We live our faith by worshipping God together in Christ, respecting and
caring for all people regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation,
gender identity, ability, ethnic background, and economic circumstance,
welcoming all into full participation in the life and
work of our ministry.
We are learning and growing in the Spirit, valuing our heritage,
nurturing our children, and extending ourselves beyond the
church walls into the world.
* Adopted by The Session of St. Andrew's (Westwood) on September 14, 2016, and agreed to by the people of St. Andrew's at an "Open Session Meeting" on October 2, 2016 as reflecting who we have been, are, and want to be, as a congregation.
Note: The Affirming Vision Statement is inspired by, and additional to, the Mission Statement of the Norwood-Westwood Pastoral Charge.
St. Andrew’s United Church (Westwood)
Re-Affirming Action Plan
We envision our Action Plan as something that will continue to evolve, but here are some of the actions we have undertaken or plan to undertake:
1. Updated the St. Andrew’s portion of the Pastoral Charge Website.
2. Invite other United Church ministries to consider becoming Affirming, and offer help in the process of discerning by providing resources or speakers or by sharing our own experiences as a ministry.
3. Keep neighbouring congregations informed about activities or events in our own faith community.
4. Established an “Affirm Fund, with occasional fundraising events and/or encourage the use of the “Special Projects” category of weekly offering envelopes.
5. Affixed an Affirming symbol of welcome on our church lawn sign.
6. Frame a copy of the Affirming Vision Statement and Certificate from Affirm United (AU/SE) and display in the narthex.
7. Fashion a quilted rainbow tapestry for the Sanctuary. (We made rainbow "bunting" for the Sanctuary, and decorated with rainbow streamers and kites.)
8. Acquire a rainbow banner announcing “St. Andrew’s United Church, Westwood” as an Affirming Church for use in parades (etc), and rainbow umbrellas and/or streamers for use in parades.
9. Establish an Affirm United library.
10. Publish an occasional newsletter in the church bulletin, highlighting recent Affirming activities.
11. Be a source of support and resources locally.
12. When possible, encourage a member or members of our Re-Affirm group to attend the AU/SE Annual Meeting.
If you have questions about any of the above, please speak with any member of the Re-Affirm Group.
The Re-Affirm Group will welcome new members at any time.
This is our own unique Rainbow symbol!
(Thanks to Jackie H.)