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Affirming Celebration – January 28, 2024

Grace United holds affirming celebration mass

The celebration closed with a choir rendition of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

The Sunday afternoon mass at Grace United was more of a party than a traditional religious gathering, as the church held an Affirming celebration.

An affirming church is fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Grace United officially earned the designation in November. The Burlington church welcomes all members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Visitors waved rainbow coloured streamers above their heads, pride themed cupcakes were eaten by the dozens, and the gathering closed out with a choir version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.

“It means we realize that we’ve begun again,” minister Richard Bott said. “Not only are we going to live into what it means to celebrate all of God’s children, it also means we’re taking another step in exploring what it means for other communities that have been marginalized.”

“It’s not so much about the certificate they receive today, it’s the process they’ve been on to get here,’ Oliphant said. “They’ve gone through a year and a half long process studying oppression, language, and the way we try to normalize everybody and recognize that people have different gender identities.”

Oliphant added the church looked at its own role in those difficult times, trying to find ways to adapt in the future.

Oliphant himself is a gay reverend in the United church. During his sermon, he spoke about his journey of coming out and staying in a church that accepted him for who he is.

Following the mass, food and drinks were provided for visitors during a chance to speak with the church leaders. A banner showing off the symbol of Affirm United was also unveiled during the mass.

Since getting the title of an affirming church in November, members of the public – many of whom come from different religious backgrounds – have reached out to Bott.

“I’ve had some conversations with folks about what it means for us to be affirming because they’re looking for a community of faith,” Bott said. “One of the things that’s difficult for people is they may come out of religious backgrounds, and their experiences make it tender for them to talk to somebody. They may come from a Christian tradition that is different from this one.”

Bott said some people may find the music too different, or the way the preachers speak to not match expectations, so some are participating in some aspects of the United Church, but not others.