Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent 4 - Love

Love is a flame that burns in our heart.

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, to be a good ally to LGBTQ2 folk, help build an accepting community, be a member of an intentionally inclusive church that welcomes 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!

Love is a flame that burns in our heart.
Jesus has come and will never depart.*

* "Hope is a Star" - by Brian Wren, Voices United #7

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Advent 3 - Joy

One of the scripture readings for this third Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 35:1-10. It is all about joy.

The reading reminds one of the joy of this year’s Pride Parade. Contrasting with the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ2+ people - having to avoid holding hands or share a caring and loving glance - at the Parade everyone was wearing bright colours and singing and dancing, so happy to celebrate being themselves - no shame, no fear, just being.

From Isaiah 35: 1-2, “...The desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing".

We United Church marchers with church banners flying and ministerial collars showing, saw a great welcome at Pride- so many people thrilled to see a church that welcomes them, accepts them as they are. What a joy to humbly do as Isaiah asks in 35:4, "Say to those who are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.'"

God of joy and exultation,
you strengthen what is weak;
you enrich the poor
and give hope to those who live in fear.
Look upon our needs this day.
Make us grateful for the good news of salvation
and keep us faithful in your service
until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives for ever and ever. Amen*

*Vanderbilt Divinity Library. The Revised Common Lectionary. Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent. https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=3

Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn,
Telling the world that the Saviour is born.*

* "Hope is a Star" - by Brian Wren, Voices United #7

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Advent 2 - Peace

Holy one,
 May Your peace surround me,
May Your peace be shown through me,
May Your peace extend throughout the world.
Amen

When I was asked to write an advent message for the KUC affirm blog I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t just mean should I do it or not but that I didn’t know what I could say, what I should say.  I am married, with children and grandchildren.  I am a registered Early Childhood Educator and worked with very young children for a very long time and I felt I didn’t have enough personal life experience with the LGBTQIA2s+ community to comment.  However like the prophets of old I thought I heard ‘yes, you’. I am a member of KUC and I am in support of KUC becoming an affirming congregation, so here is my peace dialogue for advent.

My previous United Church of Canada congregation in Winnipeg is an affirming congregation.  It became one over twenty years ago.  That wasn’t a big change for our church- we still had the same church, same people, same music, same symbols of worship, cross, font, and Bible.  The changes were small-rainbows on the outside door, a rainbow banner as you enter the building.  We could say we were welcoming to everyone and that this was a congregation that accepted you for yourself, be welcome and worship with us.

My advent hope for peace is that KUC will be a light that shines in the dark so that all who come to KUC will know immediately that they are welcome and this is a place where they may find peace and safety.  Our rainbow Christ candles, banners and mission statement will be in evidence and everyone will know that this is a safe place. No one need enter our doors and worry that they will be rejected, hurt or criticized.  Without having to say anything it will be easily recognizable that here are the symbols of inclusion and here is peace and safety.  I believe that affirming will mean inclusion for absolutely everyone and I know that KUC also hopes for this for anyone wishing to attend and that we are a congregation seeking our Creator’s wholeness, inclusion and justice.
 
The Advent peace candle and the signs of an affirming congregation show that anyone can safely walk through these doors and be affirmed and welcomed exactly as they are and who they are.  The outward visible symbols will show that KUC has made a public, intentional and explicit statement that we support members of the LGBTQIA2s+ and their loved ones.  Here there will be acceptance and peace and safety. Really, it is only what we all desire and are striving for- that this church should be a place where we can be loved, accepted and welcomed just as we are, just as God had made us and named us, wholly, beautifully and wondrously.

“Peace is a ribbon that circles the earth, giving the promise of safety and worth”*


The Affirm Leadership Team would like to thank Kathi Campbell for answering the call for a meditation on Peace for our Advent Series.

* "Hope is a Star" - by Brian Wren, Voices United #7

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Advent 1 - Hope

Many years, during Advent, we sing “Hope is a star, that shines in the night, leading us on till the morning is bright.”*

In Ontario, parents may ask their children to leave their home at the age of 16, if the child doesn’t agree to follow the parents’ rules. Many young people, when they reveal to their parents that they are gay, are asked to leave if they refuse to give up what the parents believe to be a sinful life. Often, parents are advised by their religious leaders that they must adopt this stance, either to “protect” the other children in the home, or to force the young people to conform to the norms of the parents’ religious group.

Many young people choose to leave. In Ottawa, it is estimated that 1,500 young people are homeless. LGBTQ2+ youth represent as much as 40% of these. Many of these young people cannot or will not go to shelters. Some shelters have a minimum age of 18. LGBTQ2+ young people also fear violence from homophobia in shelters.  So they live on the streets. Hope is hard to find in that situation.

Barak Obama said “This is our first task - caring for our children. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

My hope, this Advent, is that every child be warm, safe, and cared for. May the star of Hope show us the way to making this happen.


Information for this post came from this article:
https://charlatan.ca/2017/12/youth-homelessness-in-ottawa-the-most-at-risk-people-in-the-capital/


* "Hope is a Star" - by Brian Wren, Voices United #7

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

https://www.ted.com/talks/paula_stone_williams_and_jonathan_williams_the_story_of_a_parent_s_transition_and_a_son_s_redemption?language=en


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:
https://www.matthewshepard.org/

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.