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International, Recent News

Affirmation Europe Makes a Splash at London Pride and Explores New Ways to Serve

As part of the Affirmation 2017 UK tour, Affirmation Europe organised a series of events throughout the UK. The UK Leadership team have travelled around the country holding workshops, presentations and social activities, meeting LGBT Mormons and their families and friends along the way.

While our early organising in Europe has focused on the UK, where the LDS community in Europe is largest, in the past year Affirmation has spread and our family has grown, providing us a base to now reach out to LGBT Mormons in need in other parts of Europe.

In July 2017 for the third year running Affirmation Europe hosted a weekend of events in central London! This was part of the ‘Pride in London Festival’ and the Affirmation UK & Europe Conference.

We were excited to have representation from seven different counties across Europe: Canary Islands, England, Germany, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Spain and Sweden. European participants brought their stories and experiences, their cultures, their diversity, and their spoken languages. What a wonderful, unique event to be a part of, sharing the weekend with our growing, international Affirmation family in Europe!

This year we returned to our very welcoming St Anne’s Church in Soho, London for the first evening of the weekend.

‘Prayer and worship are central to life at St Anne’s. Our worship is unfussy and easy to follow with an air of ‘relaxed dignity’ in which newcomers can feel welcome, and all can be drawn into the presence of God

Once the group was gathered together we shared brief introductions and enjoyed socialising over dinner in the court yard garden. With the good olde British weather outdoor events are hard to plan for, but we were blessed with a beautiful warm and sunny evening.

Our first speaker was Georgia Williams from London, who spoke on ‘Sexualities and Gender Identity’

Georgia Williams specialises in research pertaining to marginalised genders and sexualities, and has recently completed their MSc Gender degree at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. Their focus is primarily on gender and sexuality identities which exist outside of the concepts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and bringing awareness to said identities originating from non-Western societies.

Aaron McManus, Vice President of Affirmation, then spoke on finding your ‘Spiritual Independence.’

‘Well that was one amazing weekend in London! With the Affirmation – LGBT Mormon Conference and Pride in London. It’s been a pleasure to share the weekend with so many wonderful people! And to share some spiritual, emotional, exciting, unique experiences’

After the success of Affirmation’s participation in ‘Pride in London’ 2016, we decided after the parade that we should combine both events together for 2017. On Saturday the 8th of July a group of 30+ LGBT Mormons, their families and friends marched through central London with 60,000 other people and 1 million people watching from the sides.

‘What do you get when you bring together some 30+ beautiful British, Swedish, German, Spanish, Romanian, Irish, Jamaican, Brazilian, and Argentine souls in London? An Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends Europe Conference and the presence of LGBT people of faith in the London Pride Festival!’

We embraced the theme this year of ‘Love Happens Here’ by constructing a giant heart that will be held in the centre of the group. #LoveHappensHere

Saturday evening saw a new venue for this years ‘Evening of Affirmation.’ Faber & Faber Publishers were delighted to host us in their arty event space.

We were pleased to welcome back Randall Thacker to be our first speaker of the evening. Randall had a big part to play bringing Affirmation to Europe a few years ago and we are grateful to have him back to speak to us.

Following Randall we heard from our keynote speaker for the weekend Savannah Stevenson.

Savannah Stevenson is a leading West End theatre actress. She has appeared in shows such as Mary Poppins, Gone with the Wind, Chariots of Fire and most recently as Glinda in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

Following worldwide auditions, Savannah was chosen to portray Mary, Mother of Jesus, in a series of videos by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This footage was later used as part of a major viral Christmas campaign called “He is the Gift” which was viewed by over 11.2 Million people on YouTube and Facebook in December 2014. As part of this campaign, Savannah’s image was used on billboards in Time Square, New York.

Savannah spoke about some of her experiences in a challenging profession, alongside her faith and personal spiritual journey. We also had the pleasure of hearing Savannah sing songs from the West End.

On Sunday morning, a group of us attended church at Hyde Park Chapel in Kensington for the first ‘Sit with us on Sunday’ to be held in London.

Followed by Lunch and back at St Anne’s Church, we shared a wonderful workshop lead by Francesca Fotheringham on ‘The Gift of you’

One of Francesca’s main motivations to work with Affirmation is her love for the gospel. She is active in the LDS Church and serves in her ward’s primary presidency. However, she feels that “Affirmation is a place where love is abundant and isn’t limited to shirt and tie, but crosses all boundaries.”

You are needed here! Your voice, your story, your talents, your loving heart, and your healing hands are needed. We each have individual callings that we need each other to learn how to fulfill.

Through the weekend we made new friends and new connections. We deepened our old friendships, we become aware of new ways to serve and make a difference in each others lives.

The Affirmation Europe leadership team would like to thank everyone who made this weekend such a success and what a pleasure it was to share the weekend with our Affirmation family.

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