Sunday September 18, 2022
Affirm Service of Celebration
Life & Work of Beacon United Church
We are one as we come, as we share brokenness and fear,
In the touch of a hand, there’s a sense that God is here.
We are one as we care, as we heal, we are healed;
And we share warmth of God’s embrace as we meet together in this place.
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Leader: The presence of our Divine Creator welcomes the fullness of who we are.
All: We are people who desire, people who long, people who experience love in many ways.
Leader: We celebrate love in all it’s forms platonic, familial and erotic.
All: Love that is queer, love that is straight, love that is collective.
Leader: We are people who long to know and be known for who we have been, who we are, and who we are becoming.
All: We honour identities in transition. We delight in authentic self-expression. Whether we are trans, intersex or cis, The Divine moves within our becoming.
Leader: How wondrous and vast is the presence of our Divine Creator.
All: May all who long for Love’s embrace feel their Holy Worth.
Lighting the Rainbow Candles
Each week as we gather together in worship, we light our Christ Candle. This candle represents for us the Divine light that shines throughout our world and our commitment to allow this light to shine through us. Today we light rainbow candles as a symbol of our recognition that this world is filled with many different lights and that all of them as part of the One light that shines among us all.
Rainbows embody all the colours of the world, all the beauty of creation. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, secular and sacred, queer and non-queer. And so, as we light our rainbow candles we reflect on what each of those colours mean.
Red is for life, life lived to the fullest, life that springs from the inner flame of who were created to be.
Orange is for healing, freeing us from the pain of judgement and criticism and challenging us to tolerance.
Yellow is for self-esteem celebrating who we are as a unique and beautiful part of creation.
Green is for nature and for love, because love is at the very heart of our nature, love in all its various forms and expressions.
Blue is for harmony and peace, a peace that comes from justice and equality and a harmony that comes from acceptance.
Violet is for vision, for wisdom, and for the amazing and intricate interdependence of the whole of creation.
Rainbows are a promise, and in the rainbow, we see all the hidden connections between Heaven and Earth. But rainbow colours also come together to make one light, freeing us from rigid categories and granting us the blessing of interwoven identities beyond our black and white thinking so that we may experience the whole wonderous spectrum of life. And so, as we recognize the one light that shines through all of creation, we light our Christ Candle, a candle symbolizing Divine Light.
One of the other things we do each week is to acknowledge the land upon which we gather and honour those who have tended it before us. Today we are using the land acknowledgement that appears on the Southwest Nova Pride Association website and I would ask Lydia Hunsberger to come and share that with us.
Yarmouth County is in the District of Kespukwitk (Lands End) in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) People first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.
Wondrous Creator, we praise you for the splendor of your creation. We thank you that, woven throughout the tapestry of life, you have blessed us with an abundance of human diversity. We have been created in an endless variety of races and cultures, ages and abilities, genders and sexual identities and when each one is created, your Holy Voice whispers, “It is good”. Free us, we pray, from the limited vision that focuses on differences and that divides and wounds us. Move us to dismantle the attitudes and structures that lead to prejudice and discrimination. Renew our commitment to welcome, to accept and to include all people in your circle of love. Make us eager to learn, reluctant to judge, and committed to following your way of love and peace, we pray. Amen
Music Draw the Circle Wide MV #145
Story Time All I Want to Be is Me by Phyllis Rothblatt
There are so many wonderful passages in the Bible that talk about acceptance, love and inclusion that it is had to pick just three. But since I’m the one who got to do the picking, this morning you are going to hear three of my favorites.
The first one comes from one of my all-time favorite psalms, Psalm 139. It talks about how each one of us is known completely even before we are born. It assures us that we are all wonderfully and intricately made and that we and all of creation, should each be celebrated as being strange and wonderful.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-15 Good News Translation
Lord, you have examined me and you know me. You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions. Even before I speak, you already know what I will say. You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.
You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there — you saw me before I was born.
Our second reading is one of the best-known reading from the Gospel According to Matthew. It is commonly called the Greatest Commandment.
Matthew 22:34-40 Good News Translation
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together, and one of them, a teacher of the Law, tried to trap him with a question. “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Our last reading is taken from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. In it, Paul is not talking about a physical body but about the church as a body, where every part, every individual is equally important and should be cherished for who they are.
1 Corinthians 12:14-26 Good News Translation
For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body.
So then, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “Well, I don’t need you!” On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; and those are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty, which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that need it. And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.
Music Rainbow Connection ~ Lynn Brown
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that we are where we are today. The journey to becoming an Affirming Church has not been easy and as Jennifer so beautifully pointed out at the beginning of our service, we still have a long road ahead of us. But perhaps the biggest difference between where we started and where we will be headed next, is that we have reached out and asked others, not to join us and accompany us on our own specific journey but to walk with us and help us discover together, the new journey that lies ahead of us.
When we first began the process of becoming an Affirming Church, I don’t think that very many of us had any idea of what this process would require of us or how much work it would take. Becoming part of the Affirm movement is not about putting up a sign that says that everyone is welcome. It is not about inviting the LGTBQ+ community to join us in our worship. It’s about building relationships and connections and learning from each other so that together we can build a worship community that everyone can feel they are truly a part of.
Now it may seem like this is something brand new for the Christian church but it is not. In fact, it is older that Christianity itself. When the apostle Paul was establishing the first communities of faith that would become the foundation of the Christian Church, he wrote a letter describing this church, like a body. And Paul stressed that every part of that body, every part of those worshiping communities that he was establishing, were of equal value and were to be treated as unique and precious individuals.
For Paul, the person standing up at the front of the church and reading the scriptures was no more important than the person who arrives at the last minute and hide at the back hoping no one notices them. Everyone is to be welcomed and included just as they are. Trying to change an ear into a nose is simply not acceptable. This was the foundation on which the Christian church was built. Unfortunately, it is true that the church has not always lived up to this image but it is something that we are striving towards.
And accepting all people as they are, goes far beyond the writings of Paul. In Psalm 139 we are told the we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are told that even before we are born, the One who Creates all things, already knows us completely and that everything that is created is wonderful. I know there are times that I don’t feel very wonderful. There are times when I question my worth. But Psalm 139 also reminds us that we don’t have to understand our own value or purpose. We simply need to believe that we matter. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding. Even when I doubt my own worth, the One who Created me does not.
But how do we live into this promise? How do we add to the wonder and diversity of our world in ways that not only build upon and reinforce the unique qualities that make us who we are, but that also help to build a better world for others? According to Matthew, Jesus’ answer to this question was simple. Love God and love others. Everything else that is written in the Bible, all the laws and regulations, all the teaching and preaching, all the stories and lessons, all of it, is built on the foundation of this simple message. Love God and love others.
And there are no ifs, ands or buts in this statement. There is no, “I love you but you really need to change the way you think or the way you behave.” There is no, “I would love you if you would only …” (you fill in the blanks). The statement simply says, love others. It’s a love that says, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you have been or what you have been through. It doesn’t say I love anyway or I love you in spite of. It simply says I love you.
Now if this all seems rather of naïve and idealistic, well it is. Despite our best efforts we all have pre-conceptions, biases and prejudices. We all have history and experiences that shape our attitudes and actions. None of us will ever love perfectly, but we each have the ability to move beyond our own past and make a conscious decision to live in ways that are accepting, affirming, and loving. We are gathered here today because we have made that decision. We have chosen to publicly and intentionally state our commitment to do the very best we can, to treat all people equally, to honour and respect who someone else is, and to learn to connect more fully and to walk more closely with each other. We have committed, to not only accept other people as they are, but we have also committed to share who we are with others.
And there are times we’re going to mess up. We know that. But we believe that, if we are truly willing to try and if we are truly willing to trust that the One we worship, the One who calls us to love one another will guide us, then we can move forward on this wonderful, challenging and exciting journey that will lead us into the future. And we trust that, that future will lead us ever closer to the Divine Mystery we seek to follow. Amen
Music My Love Colours Outside the Lines MV 138
Here at Beacon United Church, we no longer pass offing plates. This began as a requirement of COVID protocol, but it has become more than that. It has become a way of reminding ourselves that we do not have to pay for God’s love. It comes to us freely, regardless of who we are. The same is true for involvement in the church. We do not charge an entry fee or a membership fee. We invite everyone regardless of their ability or inability to contribute financially to our church.
However, as you all know, there are costs to running a church. Therefore, we ask you, if you would like to contribute to the ongoing work of this church, to place your offering on the offering plates that are located in the entryway. You can also put an offering in our Mission & Service piggy bank to help with our church’s work around the world. If you wish to support Beacon United church in an ongoing way, you can also make arrangements to give through Pre-Authorized Remittance or online.
You can also give through your commitments of time and talents as we seek to follow Christ and serve others together.
So now, let us take a moment of prayer to offer whatever gifts we bring to the One from whom we receive all life’s gifts and blessings. Let us Pray.
Source of all blessings, as we offer you our thanks and praise this day, we take a moment to consider the gifts that we have to offer. We ask that whatever gifts we bring, they will be given in gratitude and they will help us to do our part to live into your call to share your love with all people everywhere. We ask this in the name of the Christ whose example we follow. Amen.
Within the United Church of Canada, we express our commitment to our faith and to the living out of that faith in our everyday lives through the words of our creed. I would like to invite those who are comfortable doing so to stand and share this creed together. For those who are not comfortable with this, do not feel you must take part, but I would encourage you to listen to the words as they are shared.
We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Presentation of Affirm Certificate
At this time, I would like to invite Sandra Tomsons, the President of Region 15 of the United Church of Canada and Cory Fevens, the chair of our Affirm Committee here at Beacon to come forward.
Words of Greeting
United Church of Canada – Sandra Tomsons (letter from UCC Moderator)
Southwest Nova Pride Association – Lydia Hunsberger
Yarmouth Town Council – Heather Hatfield
Municipality of Yarmouth – Nick Hilton, Councillor
Municipality of Argyle – Danny Muise, Warden
Music We Are a Rainbow
Divine Mystery, source of all love and all justice, even as we celebrate your love for the LGBTQ2SIA community today, we remember the church has not always celebrated the wonderful diversity of your creation. We acknowledge the harm that has been done and that continues to be done in your name today.
Forgive us when we fail to see the goodness in the world around us or within ourselves…
When we do not value our own gifts and abilities…
When we do not appreciate the gifts and abilities of others…
When we mistreat, reject or disrespect others because they are different from us, or when we try to force them to change to be like us…
When we fail to recognize that your Spirit the same Spirit that empowered Jesus’ ministry still lives and moves in us and through us…
When we neglect our calling to share your love and your hope with all people…
And so today we offer our prayers specifically for LGBTQ+ people who are targeted victims of hate crimes and assaults…
We pray for those living in countries where who they are is a criminal offence… We pray for LGBTQ+ refugees from around the world who are forced to leave their own country seeking safety and sanctuary…
We pray for all those whose dignity and self-esteem have been eroded by hateful systems, structures and practices…
As we gather here today, we renew our commitment to interrupting prejudice and to practicing solidarity, to continue to move forward until people of every sexual orientation and gender identity can live freely and without fear, receiving the love and support all people deserve. Remind us once more that we are all one Body in Christ, each part unique, beautiful and deeply loved and cherished through your amazing grace. And help us to live that same love for all people. Amen.
Hymn As a Fire Is Meant for Burning VU #578
And so now we go out, come out, sing out, shout out. To tell the world who we are. To tell the world how much we love God. To tell the world how much God loves us. And as we speak and work for justice and equality, we can be confident that God goes with us; ahead of us to clear the way, beside us to sustain us when the road is rough, and behind us to pick us up when we stumble. We go out from here now knowing, we will never go alone.
Choral Blessing Go Make a Difference MV #209