Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Why am I On the Affirm Leadership Team? - Kathy Beamish

I have been a member of the United Church of Canada
since birth.  The most important lesson I have learned
from the United Church is the challenge to
Love God, Self and Neighbour.

When Robert Ashton called for people to form an Affirm team, I thought long and hard.  For all my life, good friends, close relatives and supportive coworkers, who identify as LGBTQ2, have been an important part of my life.  But I have always been a quiet companion.  I thought, Kathy, sometimes you need to step up, stand beside your friends and not be so quiet.  I realized now was the time! 

Being a member of Kanata United’s Affirm Leadership Team has and is the best and most worthwhile initiative I have been part of over my 66 years with the United Church of Canada! 

So why did I join?   I joined to
-    - learn how to be a more accepting person
-    - be a good ally to LGBTQ2 folk
-    - help build an accepting community
-    - be a member of an intentionally inclusive church
-    - enjoy and welcome all!

When I had the honor of walking with many United Church folk in the PRIDE parade this August, one church member had a sign that read

Love is Love is Love!

I believe God wants me to Love God, Self and Neighbour.  And Love is Love is Love!

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Story of a Parent's Transition and A Son's Redemption


Paula Stone Williams and her son Jonathan share the story of what transition meant to their family, in this TED Talk.  https://youtu.be/9NZCWeBNPeE

Thanks to Janette Linkletter for bringing this video to our attention. Paula's book, "She's My Dad" is available in the KUC library along with many other books on LGBTQ2+ subjects. Look for the rainbows on the book spines.

If you see something that you would like at share with the Affirm Leadership Team, and the wider KUC community, please email us at affirm@kuc.ca .

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In Memory of Matthew Shepard

Nearly 21 years ago, a twenty-one year old  University of Wyoming student was brutally murdered because of his sexual orientation. He had been meeting with other LGBT friends and allies to plan an LGBT awareness event at the university, and stopped at a bar for a beer on the way home. Two men he met in the bar, beat him and left him tied to a fence in a secluded area, where he was found the following evening, and died in hospital five days later. His funeral was targeted and protested by members of Westboro Baptist Church. 

Matthew Shepard was a Christian, son, brother, and friend. His senseless death caught the attention of many.  He wanted to make the world a better place.

His life moved his parents to create the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to erase hate in the world.  You can find more information about the foundation here:

Sadly, many in the LGBTQ community still need to be mindful of their safety, and always be vigilant, especially around strangers.

This week's anthem is a tribute to Matthew Shepard, and Josh has provided some background material for us.
From Josh:
The choral anthems this month are written by LGBTQ2I+ composers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in June 1969. On September 8, we heard "Creation of Peace," by Mark Miller, a Methodist composer from the United States working towards acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender expressions in the United Methodist Church. This past week, Mari Esabel Valverde, a trans woman from Texas, shared her song, "United in Peace: An Anthem for Our Time," giving voice to the possibility of shared values in our world today. This week, the Adult Choir will be joined by soloist Grayson Nesbitt for an offering of "The Innocence" by Craig Hella Johnson. This piece is part of a larger work, Considering Matthew Shepard, which Johnson wrote in 2016 as a tribute to Matthew Shepard. The entire work was performed this past October when Shepard's ashes were interred in the crypt of the Washington National Cathedral. 

Johnson writes this about "The Innocence": "At its core, it is a song about remembering our original state of being, our original happiness. In a challenging world, we live lives of forgetting who we are, with many layers of stress and anxiety. The Innocence, in its intentional simplicity, calls us to remembrance... May your singing of The Innocence be a warm, communal experience of coming together and listening for the quiet, ancient voice within." 

When I think of all the times the world was ours for dreaming,
When I think of all the times the earth seemed like our home—
Every heart alive with its own longing, every future we could ever hope to hold.
All the times our laughter rang in summer, all the times the rivers sang our tune—
Was there already sadness in the sunlight? Some stormy story waiting to be told?
Where O where has the innocence gone?
Where O where has it gone?
Vows we once swore, now it’s just this letting go, Where O where has it gone?
Rains rolling down wash away my memory; Where O where has it gone?
When I think of all the joys, the wonders we remember
All the treasures we believed we’d never ever lose.
Too many days gone by without their meaning, too many darkened hours without their peace.
Where O where has the innocence gone? Where O where has it gone?
Vows we once swore, now it’s just this letting go, Where O where has it gone?

Thank you Matthew Shepard for your witness in a broken world.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pride Parade - Why We March

I had attended numerous Pride Parades in Ottawa as a younger person and so I was excited to see what it would be like these days. It was more meaningful than I could have imagined.

I went to walk in the parade with the Kanata United Affirm Leadership Team. We gathered near Argyle and Bank streets in front of Centretown United Church where many members of other Ottawa United Churches were gathering.

The street scene was festive and busy with hundreds of people arriving and preparing to walk or to watch. First United and Riverside United had long banners to be held up as their members walked along. Sounds of various bands rang through the air. Cindy greeted various fellow ministers and we got to know our fellow church goers. It was very exciting and so joyous!

Walking in the parade with the United Church members was such a wonderful experience. Bright colours, music, dancing and shouts of joy filled the air. To our surprise, as we walked along, throngs of people along the sides broke out smiling broadly, clapping and shouting "hurrah" as they saw our church banners and ourselves including Cindy who was wearing her white collar.

Clearly our support of LGBTQ2+ diversity and freedom was significant to many of those watching the parade - LGBTQ2 members, their allies, the curious and the appreciative. For the rest of the year LGBTQ2 people live with the uncertainty of being accepted at home, at work, at school and at church.

I look forward to this year's Parade and hope that lots of Kanata United members will join members of the Affirm Leadership Team in the fun and such an important cause. We will be car pooling from the Church after the service, Sunday, August 25. We will be meeting up with other United Church members for the local area, at Centretown United Church. We have rainbow pins, stickers and bracelets to help you show your PRIDE.


The KUC contingent at Pride 2019

We had such a good time, meeting other United Church Folk and showing our pride!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Conversion Therapy - Why is this in the news?

The Prime Minister recently announced that the federal government would be looking into changes in the criminal code to stop groups from offering "conversion therapy".

Conversion therapy seeks to change a person's sexual orientation and "convert" gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons into hetrosexuals. This practice has been shown not to work and to cause harm.
At present, it is banned in Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia.

More information can be found here:

In the past, the federal government had said that the banning of conversion therapy was a provincial and territorial responsibility.  Here are some of the legal challenges that may hamper banning this practice.

Conversion therapy was the subject of the book "Boy Erased" by Garrard Conley. A movie by the same name, based on the book was released in 2018. The book is available from the church library. The movie is available from several streaming services and as a DVD from the Ottawa Public Library.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

In Support of Ladner United Church

I was visiting British Columbia, last week, and saw this on the TV in the breakfast room of our hotel.


I was thinking how sad this was and thinking I needed to pass this on to the other members of the Affirm Team.

Then I heard the man at the next table say to his dining companion “Why in hell would a church have a flag like THAT.”

My first response was to throw my coffee at him, but thought better of it. After all we needed a place to stay for a few more nights. Instead, I sat and steamed.

Now that I have had time to think about this, I would like to tell that gentleman why a church would have a flag like that. It is because we are called to love our neighbours. It is an open sign of loving support for the LGBTQ2+ community and a sign to all that this is a safe place.

I will be writing a letter of support to Ladner United Church. I will have it at church on Sunday, if anyone else would like to sign the letter. If you won't be there on sunday, send us an email and I will add your name to the letter. affirm@kuc.ca

As we seek to become an affirming church, may we have the courage to show the community what we believe.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Affirm - A Parents Perspective

Awhile ago, I was asked why I felt called to participate in the Affirm process. I realized that I had never been fully open about why I feel I must be involved.

I am a Mama Bear. I belong to a loosely organized group of Christian Mothers of LGBTQ+ children. We call ourselves Mama Bears because we want to protect our children from anyone who might hurt them.

I am the proud mother of the Vice President of Pride in his community. He has become a social justice warrior for the LGBTQ community in the Maritimes, working to fight conversion therapy and homelessness. He also really enjoys helping at the Safe Spaces teen dances, where he provides health care information and first aid as required.

For many mothers, their own first response to learning that their child is gay or transgender, is a belief their child will go to hell. Their church has told them that homosexuality is a sin. That gender is either male or female, and determined by God at birth, or before, and no one has the right to change that.  Many have to leave behind their friends and their church to find a place where they can protect their family.

I am lucky. When my son finally decided that he could “come out” to his parents, we were already in a place where, for our family, it was no big deal. We both knew gays and lesbians and we understood that this was the way people were born, not a lifestyle choice.

Unfortunately, the United Church was in the midst of debating whether we should sanctify same sex marriage. I had already lived through, and been shocked by some attitudes, during our struggles to confirm LGBT ordination. I feared that my family would be hurt by the words of those who still felt that sexual orientation was a life style choice.

I chose the coward’s route. I felt a strong need to protect my son and myself. So, I suggested that my sons, both members of this church, enter into the discussions, without making it personal. On the day of the vote, I managed to be out of town, at a meeting of a charity I was working for. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, and the family agreed that it was better if I wasn’t there.  We had agreed as a family that we would quietly leave Kanata United Church if the congregation chose not to sanctify same sex marriage.

You see, when you are the parent of a gay child, you often have no idea who you can tell without being hurt. You really don’t want to hear what other people think. You love your child and they are no different today then they were before they announced that they were gay. You fear that child will be bullied or worse, because of who they are. The last place you want to see them bullied is at church, in the name of Christianity. However, I wouldn’t want him to be anyone other than who he is.

When we talk about safe spaces, we are talking about safe spaces for everyone. Parents and grandparents, siblings and friends of the LGBTQ2+ need to feel they can talk about their family members openly.

I am older now. I am somewhat stronger now. I am a proud Mama Bear. I am the mother of two sons. I am the mother-in-law of their partners. I am Nana to a wonderful grandson, and to 6 furbabies. I love them all and want to protect them from the world.

In 2017, when there was an appeal for volunteers to guide the Affirm process, I felt called to stand up and say that this is what I want for my sons, their partners and especially for my grandson. I want my church to be an open, inclusive, affirming congregation. I want it to be a place where parents aren’t afraid to tell their church friends that their child is in a same sex relationship. Or that their child is a transgender person. I want every child to be celebrated for who they are, and Kanata United to be a safe space for all.