Oak Bay United Church hosts its open house this weekend.

Church embraces atmosphere of radical welcoming

Friday night movie and discussion at Oak Bay United Church explores love, faith and gender identity issues

Jennifer Blyth/Editor

On Friday evening, Oak Bay United Church opens a year of intentional dialogue with a movie at the church, Call Me Malcolm.

Described as “one man’s struggle with faith, love and gender identity,” the film and discussion following is an opportunity for deeper understanding, explains Gordon Miller, music minister and communications director for Oak Bay United Church.

The local church is embarking upon an affirming year to explore what it means to be welcoming to all people, including those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. However, it’s really a continuation of Oak Bay United’s already “radically welcoming” atmosphere.

In an era when many faith communities are seeing their numbers shrink, the local congregation is one of the few that is growing – and has grown for the last three years.

“This congregation is very much  looking outward, to find what we can be doing in the community – nurturing the spirit at the heart of the community,” Miller says.

Other initiatives include a playgroup for young children and their parents, grandparents or caregivers, and a monthly “Pub Theology” nights, in which 20 to 25 people typically gather at the Penny Farthing once a month to discuss a particular theological question.

The church also supports groups and events like the SingYourJoy young adult chorus and the monthly open mic cabarets, that take advantage of the church’s fantastic acoustics.

“This congregation always thinks of itself as a radically welcoming congregation,” Miller says.

While the United Church as an organization has been welcoming to the LGBTQ community for decades, becoming the first to ordain gay and lesbian ministers  more than two decades ago, Miller notes, it seemed a good time to consciously explore what that means.

And while the year’s focus will be on LGBTQ, the spirit of the exercise is far more wide-reaching.

For example, “what barriers do we have in the way (of being welcoming to all members of the community) that we’re not even seeing?” Miller asks. “It’s an intentional dialogue we’re having with ourselves, but at the same time, we need to throw open the doors to others.”

While Friday’s film presentation is the first public event in the church’s affirming year, Miller is also looking forward to the church’s presentation of the 80-member Vancouver Men’s Chorus, the first gay chorus in Canada, coming to Oak Bay Nov. 21 and 22.

“Their mission is, through the arts, to present a positive image of the gay community,” Miller says.

 

It will be the 30-year-old chorus’s first visit to the region in 10 years and while the Making Spirits Bright program will largely reflect the Christmas season, the director is also adding material in support of Oak Bay United Church’s affirmation, Miller says. Partial proceeds from the event will support a local LGBT initiative, while some funds will support the church’s affirming initiatives within the community, Miller says.

 

 

Open House Weekend at Oak Bay United Church

Oak Bay United Church will be a hive of activity this weekend for the weekend-long annual open house.

• Friday, Sept. 11 – The film Call Me Malcom begins at 7 p.m. Guidelines for this movie suggest those 18+, but parents accompanying teens may choose to attend, the church says.

• Saturday, Sept. 12 – Giant parking lot sale, 10 a.m.

• Saturday, Sept. 12 – Family barn dance, from  5 to 9 p.m., including food and music from 6 p.m. with local folksters Water in the Crawlspace. Entry isby donation and all are welcome.

• Sunday, Sept. 13 – Worship for all ages and Blessing of Backpacks at 10 a.m., in which everyone transitioning to school, university or daycare is invited to bring their backpack to be blessed. Following service is a barbecue in the garden and a community fair beginning at 11 a.m. featuring a whole host of local groups and organizations sharing information about what they do.