A Charlottetown church says it's the first on P.E.I. to be designated as "affirming," meaning the congregation is committed to full inclusion of people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Parishioners of the historic downtown Trinity Clifton United Church say social justice has always been a priority, but a couple of years ago some at the church realized more could be done to welcome those in the LGBT community.
"Up to that point, I didn't realize there was anything more we could do as a congregation to be welcoming," said Valerie Downe.
She is one of the members of a steering committee that was assembled to find out what the congregation could do to be more inclusive.
'The reason we're doing it is not to fill our pews, it's not to be a name in Charlottetown.' - Greg Davis, Trinity Clifton United Church minister
The committee was formed with the support of Affirm United, an independent, volunteer-led organization that works in partnership with the United Church of Canada.
"We understand we have to do a lot of work around the language we use in our services, the images we use in our services, that we put up on our screens need to be more indicative of the larger populations — same-sex couples, different racial backgrounds," said steering committee chair June Jenkins Sanderson.
'Visibly and intentionally welcoming'
To achieve the designation of a United Church "Affirming Ministry," Trinity Clifton needed an all-inclusive marriage policy — which it's had since 2007 — a vision statement and an action plan.
The process took more than two years and the congregation voted overwhelmingly in favour of the idea.
The committee said it was worth the time invested.
"Just as a social justice issue, it's a population that I feel have not been accepted totally in lots of Christian traditions," said Downe. "And I think we have to be visibly and intentionally welcoming to correct some of that."
Greg Davis, Trinity Clifton United Church's minister, said his church has a history of outreach in the community.
"The reason we're doing it is not to fill our pews, it's not to be a name in Charlottetown. It's to be able to say, 'You know what, we're doing something that's right, and we're trying to make things right that's been wrong.'"
The group plans to bring in speakers, and have more discussions about the importance of language and how it shapes thoughts. They also plan to hold a special service in the new year to celebrate the new designation.