Trinity-Clifton Pastoral Charge holds special church service after receiving designation as first affirming ministry
© MITCH MACDONALD/THE GUARDIAN
Trinity United Church Minister, Greg Davis, left, and Affirm Committee chairperson June Sanderson, chat with Charlottetown resident Treena Smith, right, after a special service Sunday recognizing the church's new status as an affirming ministry. The first affirming ministry in the province has welcomed itself to all people, regardless of sexual identity.
Treena Smith hopes to see the day where the sentiment "everyone's welcome" actually means everyone.
The Charlottetown resident said she has experienced being marginalized within her own religion after growing up as an active member of the Roman Catholic Church.
While Smith still has fond memories of volunteering at the church and singing during mass, the positive relationship took a turn when she came out as gay.
"I started to realize the church didn't really like me, I was not allowed to be me and be part of the church," Smith said during a service at the Trinity United Church in Charlottetown on Sunday. ""I do still go to events at the Catholic church sometimes and I still love it when I go, but I don't feel the church is in my corner."
Smith saw some hope Sunday during a special service celebrating Trinity United Church's designation as the first affirming ministry in the province.
The service, held on Valentine's Day, re-affirmed the fact that the 151-year-old church is inclusive of all people regardless of sexual and gender identity.
Smith said it's important for church's to show an overt acceptance towards gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals rather than simply saying "everyone's welcome."
"What your church is doing is very significant. You're allowing people to be who they are and telling them they're good enough to be loved by God and be part of the community here at Trinity United," Smith said while addressing the congregation.
The church will now join 140 other affirming ministries in Canada, all which promote awareness and work towards ending discrimination.
In addition, about 80 other ministries throughout the country are in the process of assessing the option or are already working towards the designation.
June Sanderson, chairperson of the Trinity-Clifton Pastoral charge's affirm committee, said the process of getting the designation spanned several years.
It also included input from the congregation, with well over 90 per cent voting in favour of the transition.
"It's been a huge process, we've learned an amazing amount along the way, and today's celebration just brought it all together," said Sanderson.
Sunday's celebration unsurprisingly also brought new faces into the congregation.
Rev. Greg Davis made it clear in his sermon that they were not only welcome at the church, but needed.
"You are welcome and accepted in this place, each and every person is a creation of God that is unique and wonderful," he said. "And without you this church, this community, this world will never be whole and complete."
While Sunday's service was the result of several years of work, it was also a new beginning.
Sanderson said the church will now start implementing its action plan, which includes offering public education events, sessions on inclusive language, a social justice book club and reviewing information within the church to make sure it is "inclusionary."
"Our work really begins now," she said.
Smith said she believes that work could even save lives.
She said gay, lesbian and transgendered youth are at a higher risk of suicide than their peers.
"As far as I'm concerned, this move to being an affirming community and everything that means will save lives," she said. "We all need support, love and guidance through life and churches or religious spaces are very significant."