The message—from the reverend to the congregation— was clear: the Bridgewater United Church is a place for everyone.
The church held an official celebration on Jan. 27 to mark becoming a part of Affirm United, a group working for the inclusion of all orientations and gender identities into the United Church of Canada.
Reverend Jeff Chant explained that the church voted to become an affirming church in November after several months of discussion.
“It’s our belief that the church should not be a place of barriers and judgement,” said Chant, adding that he was proud of his congregation’s decision.
Chant said most of the congregation had already supported being inclusive and the overwhelming majority voted to become an affirming church.
However, he noted that having conversations about LGBTQ2+ persons and other groups was an opportunity to inform and reflect.
“One of the things that leadership and myself have talked a lot about is what it means to really love each other as we’re called to do,” said Chant. “There’s a place for everyone.”
And to celebrate their inclusiveness, the Bridgewater United Church joined together to sing and reflect on their decision.
Several guest speakers attended the ceremony and Regenesis, a youth band from the Bedford United Church, led the congregation through music.
The band played a number of songs that had been written to more inclusive.
Lastly, there was a presentation in which the church was presented with an Affirm United certificate.
Chant said the celebration was a chance to recognize that everyone is different but loved in the eyes of God.
Speaking to the congregation, Chant stressed the importance of acceptance in a time of political and cultural upheaval.
“Let’s be a place of love and acceptance,” he said. “Hopefully, this is a place where people come to feel loved and safe.”
To reflect being a part of Affirm United, the church also changed its vision statement to welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, gender identity and ethnic background.
“I’m very, very proud of this congregation,” said Chant.