It’s been a long journey, but Calvary United Church has finally taken the last step.
On Sunday, the Prince Albert church elected to join the Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church and the Tamarack Presbytery in becoming an open and affirming congregation. The move means the church has formalized its commitment to accept and support people of all sexual orientations and gender diversities.
Although the decision wasn’t formalized until Sunday, congregants said the subjects of inclusion and diversity has been on their minds for years. After all that time, they said it was only natural to make it official.
“The journey has been a long one for this congregation,” said Rev. Nora Vedress, the church’s minister since 2005. “It’s been 18 years and then, very intentionally in the last 24 months, we’ve had studies and speakers and education based events and services and really made it an intentional process.”
The congregation took part in an Affirming Ministry educational program, and then voted unanimously in favour of the decision during a February meeting.
Congregants like Robert Hayes, who served as chairperson of Calvary’s Affirming Ministry Journey Committee, said it was an easy choice.
“I thought, ‘well, if the national church is (affirming), the provincial body and the regional body are, why aren’t we?’ Hayes explained.
“Then, when we looked into what it took to become an affirming congregation I said, ‘well, we’re doing that anyway, so let’s just formalize it.”
“When we were asking the congregation about becoming affirming, the number one response I got was, ‘aren’t we already?’” Vedress added. “That made me feel that this is the time (and) we’re ready, because a lot of the stuff we’ve been doing, we have been doing for the last 10 years.”
Although the focus won’t change at Calvery, both Vedress and Hayes said the congregation plans to be more intentional with their support for LGBTQ2 residents in Prince Albert. In the past, they worried the church as a whole wasn’t doing enough to reach out and engage with people from that demographic, and that’s something they want to change.
“We forget that not everyone has a safe place to be, and perhaps we take for granted some of the freedoms that we have in this country and in the church,” Vedress said.
“(Churches) haven’t done a great job all the time of being a safe place and open to everyone and hearing everyone’s voices. For the church to become affirming (we need to) intentionally say, we know we don’t always get this right, but we’re going to really try.”
“This is the big celebration, but it doesn’t end,” Hayes added.
“We’re going to work hard to make people feel welcome. Whatever it takes.”