The word affirming can have several meanings depending on context, but the definition can include: 1) stating a fact, 2) asserting strongly, and 3) offering someone support or encouragement.
In the United Church context, we first started using the term affirming to mean the inclusion of all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Now, it is being used more broadly as we as a denomination take more positive steps toward challenging bias and discrimination, working to end racism, increasing accessibility, and caring for the planet. When working toward these goals, the United Church has started using the acronym PIE for Public, Intentional, and Explicit.
How can we be public, intentional, and explicit when working toward these values through music and all the arts? Here are some places to start:
= What kind of music do you use from all over the world and how often do you include it?
= In your selections, are you coming from a place of genuine appreciation and desire for equity? Are you appropriating the music? Is the inclusion mere tokenism?
= Do you include guests who can introduce, educate, and lead authentically when bringing new music to your music groups or congregation?
= How closely do you look at the text of any of the music that you sing? Are the texts inclusive and affirming? Do they need tweaking? Is there something else that would work better?
= What kinds of images do you choose for your digital displays or printed bulletins?
= Have you thought about giving background information or the story behind the music or artwork you use? How does contextualizing the creator affect how the music or art is received?
= Do you ever include American Sign Language for musical pieces?
= How much emphasis do you place on the values of diversity, inclusivity, accessibility, and caring for the planet when choosing music or art?
Referring back to the definitions of affirming, how might the arts make a bold assertion or offer support? In the United Church context specifically, how do the arts express the affirming vision publicly, intentionally, and explicitly?
Lots to think about as we move forward!