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Central Okanagan United Church Welcomes All with “You Belong” Banner Unveiling

In a heartwarming ceremony, the Central Okanagan United Church in Kelowna officially affirmed its commitment to inclusivity, celebrating its designation as an affirming congregation for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The event featured the unveiling of a stunning “You Belong” banner, designed by local artist Sarah Jones and commissioned by Advocacy Canada.

Wilbur Turner addresses the congregation at Central Okanagan United Church on February 18, 2024. Video credit COUC Media.

Wilbur Turner, President of Advocacy Canada, played a role in unveiling the banner. He spoke of his own journey, similar to one shared by one of the ministers of being ostracized upon coming out as gay. He shared that he stood in the same space 12 years ago, speaking at an inter-faith Pride service while in drag, highlighting the progress made and the fight for visibility. Wilbur spoke of the reason behind the design and banner, and the need for a message that uplifts and celebrates the queer community at a time when they are under attack.

Wilbur Turner as his drag persona, Oddree speaks at an inter-faith Pride service at Central Okanagan United Church in August 2012.

Wilbur Turner as his drag persona Oddree speaks at an inter-faith Pride service at Central Okanagan United Church in August 2012.

The “You Belong” banner isn’t just a symbol; it’s a beacon of hope. Its vibrant rainbow design and powerful message resonate at a time when the 2SLGBTQIA+ community faces growing pressure to be silenced. This uplifting artwork, commissioned after a community consultation process, embodies the spirit of acceptance and inclusion.

Beyond the visual, the banner carries a potent message in the nsyilxcən language: “kʷu yʕayʕát kʷuʔ čn̓k̓ʷɬn̓xiʔm̓,” which translates to “We all join in together / We are all a part of it together.” This message of unity and belonging underscores the ceremony’s significance and reminds us that inclusion isn’t just a concept, it’s a practice. More information about the “You Belong” project and the nsyilxcən phrase pronunciation go to the okyoubelong website.

The Central Okanagan United Church’s celebration sends a powerful message of love and acceptance. As Wilbur noted in his speech, “This rainbow is not just for the queer community, it’s for everyone.” Let this be a symbol of hope, inspiring others to create spaces where everyone feels welcome and celebrated, where “You Belong” is more than just a phrase, it’s a lived reality.

Advocacy Canada is grateful for the support of Central Okanagan United Church for our advocacy work.

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