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Watch Devout + Out: Susan on YouTube.

A queer Mohawk minister balances two faith traditions on an Ontario reserve.

Susan lives on a fine line between cultures and expressions.

She is Kanien'kehá:ka (also known as Mohawk).

She is an open lesbian.

She is a United Church minister at the Grand River United Church. 

Despite balancing these diverse identities, Susan radiates peace and thoughtfulness. She is living out a new expression of faith in the somber face of the church’s abusive history toward Indigenous and queer individuals.

Susan grew up on Six Nations territory, experiencing a joyful childhood that included the best parts of community, surrounded by family and friends. But she was also formed by her family’s trauma in the wake of residential schools. It wasn’t until she was in her 20s that Susan was able to see the complicated effects of oppression and internalized racism, and began to process what it all meant to her.

Susan knew she was gay at the age of seven — she also knew that it wasn’t safe to tell anyone. But when her friends started dying of AIDS in the 1980s, Susan realized it was important for her to be out, visible and proud.

Now, Susan has been nominated for Moderator of The United Church of Canada — the most senior elected position in the national church.

In the lead up to the election, she reflects on how slowly the Church has moved in its reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people, as well as with queer people. It’s clear to Susan that the church can do a better job, and she feels called upon to be part of that movement. Susan accepts the nomination and steps into the spotlight as the council votes.

As the relationship between the church and Indigenous people continues to heal, Susan hopes that the teachings of love, compassion, respect and kindness will shape new generations of people to be good to one another. In one hand, she holds her Longhouse faith and Indigenous traditions. In the other, she holds a firm belief that there is goodness at the core of the Church.

The point, she says, is to bring people closer together.

Devout + Out is a documentary series about openly LGBTQ church leaders.

Credits (Click to expand)

Director
Thirza Cuthand

Series Producer
Nicholas Bradford-Ewart

Co-Producer
Alex Josselyn-Hamilton

Director of Photography
Nicholas Bradford-Ewart

Editor
Laura Bower

Featuring
(in order of appearance)
Susan Beaver
Tannis Atkinson

Production Manager
Sunita Miya-Muganza

Sound
Gus Harris
Stuart Maclean

Dialogue and Effects Editor
Chris Russell
Re-Recording MIxer
Bret Killoran

Rental Equipment Services Provided By
Habibi Film Rentals

Colourist
Nicholas Bradford-Ewart

Titles and Motion Graphics
Alex Josselyn-Hamilton

Described Video and Closed Caption provided by
Capsule Media

Financial Services
Above the Line Media Services, Inc.

Legal Services
Stohn Hay Cafazzo Debroski Richmond LLP

Insurance
Knox Hutchison Entertainment Insurance

Music

THE LOST BARRIO
Composed by Joe Novelli
Published by Cezame Metro Park

MORNING LIGHT IN TUCSON
Composed by Joe Novelli
Published by Cezame MEtro Park

TRANSFORMATION
Composed by Tim Benjamin
Published by KPM APM

THRILLER CUTS 23 (EMOTION & DRAMA)
Composed by Guillaume Roussel
Published by KAPT APM

BLACK SEA
Composed by Agnes Cecile
Published by Cezame Metro Park

SHOUKIN
Composed by Tony Tape
Published by Selected Sound APM

Music provided by
© 2018 ASSOCIATED PRODUCTION MUSIC LLC

Archival Photography
Yousuf Karsh, William Lyon Mackenzie King Collection, Library and Archives Canada, Accession Number 1964-087, item 128, C-012600 Published by Cezame Metro Park

Special Thanks
Lindsay Bradford-Ewart
Ezra Bradford-Ewart
Anya Bradford-Ewart
Zoe Hopkins
Samy Inayeh
Sarah Jackson
Habibi Film Rentals
Kris Hamilton
Pip Josselyn-Hamilton
Mason Mccail
Susan Beaver
Tannis Atkinson
The Congregation of the United Church of the Grand River
Six Nations
United Church of Canada
Jordan Cantwell
Catherine Todd
Amy Crawford

Produced with the participation of
Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit

Produced by
Archipelago Productions

Produced in Association with
CBC

General Manager, Programming
Sally Catto

Executive Director, Documentary
Jennifer Dettman

Senior Director, Documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

Senior Director of Production, Unscripted Content
Alexandra Lane

Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs
Lesley Birchard