Image depicts a crowd of people. At the front, a woman holds a sign reading "Queer Liberation" and carries rainbow objects. To her left is a person wearing a rainbow scarf and holding a drum. To their left is a masked woman holding up another sign.
Screenshot from the 100 United Years video that aired during Stars on Ice performances across Canada this spring. (Screenshot courtesy of The United Church of Canada/YouTube)

Topics: UCC in Focus | Church News, Culture

United Church ad airs to figure skating fans across Canada during Stars on Ice tour

The 30-second video highlighted the denomination's inclusivity and diversity in an attempt to reach non-members

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A 30-second video — part of the 12-city Stars On Ice cross-Canada figure-skating tour that ended May 24 — helped the United Church’s General Council Office put a new spin on inviting people to take part in the church. At the same time, the video served as the leading edge of a publicity campaign before United Church centennial celebrations on June 10, 2025.

General Secretary Rev. Michael Blair says the chance to air the video as part of the tour “dropped in our lap. So we thought, a gift from the heavens in some ways. So let’s use it.” The opportunity was not free, but came at a steep enough discount that the church was asked not to release its cost.

With visuals that include animated young people, 2SLGBTQ+ protest marchers, development aid workers and Indigenous dancers, the video tells viewers, in a voiceover by Moderator Rt. Rev. Carmen Lansdowne, that they are always welcome in the United Church and challenges them to “find your community.”


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The skating show’s star-studded lineup included veteran Canadian skaters such as Olympic gold medallist Patrick Chan (who retired after the tour) and Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko, plus relative newcomers like 2024 World Pairs champs Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps.

Demographic statistics on figure skating, says United Church director of communications Ronda Parkes, indicate “it’s a female-dominated audience,” and a good fit for the United Church. That was borne out when Parkes attended the event’s Toronto stop. The denomination expected to reach about 100,000 people during the tour.

“It was mostly women….Whole families go, so it will be grandma, Mom, grand-daughters…. And the audience is very much participatory.” Announcing the church participation in an April 25 release on the United Church website, Parkes invited anyone seeing the church video at a performance to send her photos or information. To guarantee feedback, she also arranged for at least two United Church-related people to attend most performances.


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The United Church was the only faith group on display at the tour’s shows, but another non-profit group, World Vision Canada, had a very high profile as the Stars on Ice official charity. World Vision is the country’s largest international development agency.

A website, 100Unitedyears.ca, gave show-goers an internet landing page promoting the church’s centennial and giving them a chance to sign up for a newsletter.

So far, says Parkes, she has received responses from people who attended almost every venue, ranging from Halifax in the east to Victoria in the west. The website landing page has had 520 unique visitors since being launched before the first show in Halifax. She says the site’s numbers showed a boost right after each show. In the wake of the tour, adds  Parkes, the church is also “marketing that webpage on social media and online.”

The Stars on Ice video fits into General Council’s strategic plan, which aims to add 100 new United Church communities of faith in the coming years. So, says Michael Blair, “the bottom line for us as we lean into the centennial, is an invitation to folks to revisit us.” The video is intended to reach out to “people who have history with the Church” as well as newcomers.

Adds Blair: “The key thing we want our people to know is that this is not aimed at them. It’s so easy for us to get into our United Church critique and forget that what we are trying to do is test messages. . . . Part of our growth initiative is how do we help people outside the church rediscover something about the United Church.”

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Mike Milne is a writer in Owen Sound, Ont.


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