On Sunday, March 17, the Westminster United Church celebrated becoming an affirming ministry with a gathering and service at 2 pm. It’s been a four-year journey for the church, one of investigation, discovery, declaration and action. Westminster United Church congregation members have been in the community demonstrating the principles of what it means to be an affirming ministry. 

The celebration marked the Church’s official designation as an affirming ministry. 

“The celebration is a public declaration that we do the work of a fully inclusive church and community of faith,” says Allision Sarauer, who is one of the key members of the Westminster Church Affirm Team. “Since 1988, the United Church removed any barrier for LGBTQ+ people to becoming full members of the United Church, including ordination. It’s an intention way of saying that Westminster United Church has committed to education and discernment around that. We really believe that God’s love is for everybody with no exclusions.” 

Affirm United is an organization that’s part of the United Church of Canada, Allison explains. The organization outlines what types of education church leaders and members can commit to investigate and adopt inclusive principles. The doctrine and teachings are set out in a 100-page booklet that became the centre of their work. The organization outlines the activities a church congregation can take to foster the work. 

“Some of the things we did were some workshops. One of them was on the Bible and homosexuality. We worked through Covid, so we did a lot of our investigations and activities online. We did another workshop exploring what an intercultural church looks like. 

Westminster United expanded its vision to supporting and accepting anyone who has been marginalized by society and the church in the past – age related concerns, racism, economic circumstances, family composition. So, the second workshop we had was ‘what is an intercultural church.’ We talked about the intersectionality there is among all marginalized people in society.” 

Some of the activities and outreach included “mug and muffin” chats, a “listening lunch” where attendees could express concerns, a celebration of Pride Week in concert with Pride Humboldt, and a variety of publications supporting inclusive viewpoints.  

There were fun social gatherings called PIE Day events, a nod to the church's acronym for public, intentional and explicit in their messaging around inclusion. The events included songs, readings, and of course pie and refreshments.  

Those investigations inevitably led to the church’s involvement in answering the calls for action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report.  

“We cohosted the Blanket Exercise with the City of Humboldt, attended local Indigenous focused learning, and we are really pleased with the Orange Shirt Day walk we’ve had with for the last two years on September 30. It’s been a chance to think about Reconciliation and what it means in our community.” 

Former Moderator of the United Church, Very Reverend Jordan Cantwell and Reverend Laura Fouhse were on hand to lead the celebration. The service and gathering marked a special, welcoming celebration for all who attended no matter who they are and what path they walk.  

- Photos J. Graham and Allsion Sarauer