SACKVILLE, N.B. – Embracing and accepting people for who they are. That is the approach the Sackville United Church congregation hopes to convey in its latest step towards fully welcoming all in the community.
Rev. Lloyd Bruce said he is eager to let everyone know his congregation has chosen to become an Affirming Ministry, meaning they are committed to promoting the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
And he will have that chance when the Sackville United Church hosts a milestone celebration to mark this designation on Sept. 30.
Bruce said his congregation, who voted unanimously to become an Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Canada earlier this summer, wants to be a beacon to the community, to let people know they’re all welcome here.
“We want to be a place where everyone is embraced for who they are and where we can help them become all they can be,” said Bruce.
The celebration will fittingly be held during Sackville’s Pride Week and will follow up on a series of other community events like the annual pride parade and flag-raising ceremony.
Bruce said his congregation embarked on a process about two years ago to further explore the idea of becoming an Affirming Ministry. This came from the realization that they wanted to do more to reach out welcoming arms to those in the community who have felt marginalized by the church.
“This has been embraced resoundingly by the congregation. For some, this is something that’s long overdue.”
– Rev. Lloyd Bruce
Guided by Affirm United, the process was led by a sub-committee of the congregation, who brought ideas and issues to the table, held monthly wonder cafes, and had plenty of discussions before bringing it to a vote to its members earlier this summer.
“This has been embraced resoundingly by the congregation,” said Bruce. “For some, this is something that’s long overdue.”
Affirm United has almost 200 Affirming Ministries across the country and many more undergoing the educational process, which is designed to help congregations reflect on what it means to be inclusive.
Bruce said becoming an Affirming Ministry is about breaking down barriers and heading on a path towards restoring people’s trust in the church. He said not all congregations are fully accepting of LGBTQ people, leaving many to feel unwelcome in their own home churches.
“They are tired of being accepted only halfway,” he said.
An Affirming Ministry is not afraid to make their stance public and supports and participates in events with the LGBT community. They proudly display their congregation’s Affirming Ministry banner and they encourage other ministries to become Affirming.
Bruce also makes it clear that, for him, the designation is a commitment by Sackville United to work for justice and inclusion for all people – not just as it relates to the LGBTQ community but also when it comes to age, racial/cultural backgrounds, abilities, and family configurations.
The Affirming celebration will be held at the Sackville United Church on Sunday, Sept.30 at 11 a.m. The event will feature a number of guest speakers who will talk about their experiences and what this designation means to them. Several dignitaries have been invited including the mayor, the MLA and the MP for the area, as well as other local congregations and community groups.