Our Affiliation with Affirm United
Forest Hill United Church has always identified with the United Church vision of inclusiveness; that all are welcome regardless of age, race, class, gender or physical ability. In 1982, a group was formed called Affirm whose mission was to strengthen that vision by advocating within the United Church for full inclusion of gay and lesbian members. Later, Affirm would join with other groups to become Affirm United / S’affirmer Ensemble. This new organization further expanded the Affirm vision to include people of all identities.
Forest Hill United Church began the process of joining Affirm United / S’afffirmer Ensemble and becoming an affirming congregation in 2015. What follows below is the story of that journey; a journey that continues today and into the future.
ROAD TO AFFIRMING 2015-16
Fall of 2015 - an Affirm Working Group is formed from interested members of the Congregation. The group plans to meet and communicate regularly, both with each other and contacts in the United Church national Affirm office throughout the journey.
October 2015 - a movie night is held, featuring the movie “For the Bible Tells Me So”.
Early 2016 - the group leads a Sunday Service to communicate plans to congregation, with the service including rainbow candles as an emblem of the LGBTQ+ community. Rev Dr. Priscilla Geisterfer is welcomed as guest preacher, followed by a Question and Answer session after the service.
A message from Rev. Dr. Priscilla Geisterfer
March 2016 - a Bible Study evening is held, led by Rev Brett Anningson on the topic of “The Bible and Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”.
Spring 2016 - members of the Senior Sunday School create a beautiful banner in support of Affirm.
May 29, 2016 - the group conducts a Sunday service that includes the presentation of a background letter and questionnaire relating to Affirm United and specifically to Forest Hill United. A confidential questionnaire box for individuals’ responses was provided.
Throughout the Fall 2016 - The group works on updates to the Forest Hill Vision Statement and website welcoming message:
Forest Hill United Church is a safe place to gather regardless of race, creed,
age, cultural background, family status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Our mission is to live by the teaching and example of Jesus Christ as a
visible and vital community in Christian worship, fellowship and service.
All are welcome here!
The Marriage Policy and designs for All Gender Washroom signs are reviewed and two signs ultimately ordered.
October 2016 - LGBTQ+ once again leads a Sunday Service, and makes available a summary of the responses to the May questionnaire, a copy of the group’s Action Plan going forward, and some LGBQ+ definitions.
November 13, 2016 Service - We welcome Elizabeth Savoie who, in her sermon Safe Spaces, speaks about her personal experience and that of Wilmot United Church in their journey to becoming an Affirming ministry.
VOTING DAY, December 4, 2016 - All members of Forest Hill United Church are invited to vote at the end of the service in a secret ballot. The motion for Forest Hill United Church to officially become an Affirming congregation is passed meeting the minimum of 75% in favour!
APPROACHING A CELEBRATION - EARLY 2017
Annual dues are paid to Affirm United and their rainbow stickers are affixed to the two front windows of the church. Rainbow colours are represented on the worship table by way of a rainbow dove Christ candle.
Plans are made for an April 23rd Celebration Event. A poster is created to advertise this event. A bulletin cover is designed using the rainbow dove.
Lapel pins for everyone are created using a dove pin and rainbow ribbon.
CELEBRATION SERVICE - APRIL 23, 2017
A wonderful service of celebration is led by Rev. Ali Anningson.
Tony Burnett, member of Affirm United and Wilmot United Church, presents the official certificate on behalf of Affirm United / S'affirmer Ensemble. Forest Hill United Church Board Chair Jula Hughes brings greetings from other individuals and ministries.
Presentation of the Certificate
The message from Rev. Ali Anningson
Singing with Our Whole Body
There is participation by the choir, Sunday School members of all ages, Alex Good (our Music Director) and members of the congregation. We also had a celebration CAKE!
WE LOVE PARADES
A poster suitable for a wall hanging or for carrying in a parade is created with artwork donated by Rebecka Cole, a young graphic artist who was formerly a member of Forest Hill's Sunday School in the late 1990s.
August 13, 2017 - Seven members of the congregation proudly march with our new banner in the Fredericton Pride Parade.
July 23, 2023 - Fredericton Pride Parade
OUR WORK CONTINUES
Obtaining membership in Affirm United was just the beginning of the journey. The Affirm Working Group established a set of goals and guidelines to which we aspire on an ongoing basis.
Budget annually for Affirming activities, and annual dues to Affirm United.
Ensure welcoming message/logo remains in all Sunday bulletins and on website.
Add the line “An Affirming Church” to all media announcements
Recognize our anniversary of becoming Affirming each year.
Regularly include LGBTQ along with other marginalized peoples and world concerns in prayers and hymns in services.
Annual support for Fredericton Pride weekend (joining with other congregations during parade or a table at the event, or financial support).
Ongoing discussions with children in Sunday School re diversity in families.
Seek out learning opportunity/workshops on racism issues, gender issues, and notify congregation via church website and Sunday bulletins of upcoming events. Participate in conducting workshops when appropriate.
Connect with other churches which are members of Affirm United to share ideas about reaching out to the wider community and supporting each other’s events.
Arrange to send or receive direct feedback from the annual Affirm United Conference.
Dedicate the Sunday/Sunday bulletin closest to November 20th for the Transgender Day of Remembrance
Dedicate the Sunday/Sunday bulletin closest to March 21st each year for the International Day of Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Tie this in to gender discrimination as well.
Support local AIDS work and activities.
Make periodic contacts with local schools to offer support for Gay Straight Alliance at the school (resources/moral support/use of our facilities)
Arrange to send a representative to the Affirm United Annual Conference when funding permits.
Circulate the Affirm United newsletter email@example.com