The people of St. Andrew’s live in a “both/and” kind of world. Yes, we are a large downtown church with beautiful stained glass windows and a beautiful old building AND yes, we take social justice issues to heart.
For many years the St. Andrew's community has taken to heart the gospel imperative to draw the circle of community wide. What does it mean to welcome all both in worship and in the everyday activities of our church community?
For the past two years our community has been in a process of discernment and study to decide whether we wish to become an Affirming congregation in the United Church of Canada ... a community willing to publicly welcome gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual and questioning people into the life and leadership of our congregation. The process involved creating a Statement of Affirmation and Inclusion as well as a Marriage Policy reflecting our willingness to help LGBTQ people celebrate and ritualize their relationships in marriage. We have also created an inclusion committee to help the congregation continue to learn and to broaden our circle of fellowship and faith.
In March of 2013, we asked the congregation to accept the invitation to become an Affirming congregation and a substantial majority agreed to take that step and declare ourselves as Affirming. So in the future when you come into St. Andrew's the rainbow decals at both doors of the church and on our Church sign will declare that we celebrate the wide diversity and gifts of all of God's children and all are welcome in this place.
And when you come to worship you will still find meaningful worship and wonderful music that feeds the spirit . AND you will find the people of St. Andrew's engaged in meaningful ministry throughout the week reaching out to the community through groups like Transition Town, pulling weeds or harvesting produce for the Soup kitchen from our front yard garden, picking up food for our Loaves and Fishes Food Bank program, washing dishes at Turkeyfest, visiting our elders in nursing care facilities, driving folks to cancer appointments, sharing coffee and friendship, preparing food for Sunday lunch to share with our downtown neighbours; working to steward and protect the environment and accompanying and learning from the youth and the children in Church school and youth group programs. Our young folks join us for the first part of our worship service and for regular services of Communion and Baptism and then make their way to the children's program featuring crafts, stories, games, experiments and drama.
Used by many groups in the City, our gracious old building and the people of St. Andrew’s aspire to be welcoming, friendly, inclusive, relevant and open. St. Andrew's staff and the people of St. Andrew's aspire to offer “open hearts, open minds and open doors” for the membership of the Church from the eldest to the youngest and indeed for anyone who comes through our doors.
As one of our hymns gladly celebrates, "All are welcome, all are welcome in this place!"
Rev. Jane Howe,
St. Andrew's United Church