TODAY I STAYED at home in the warmth, working on the annual report of the Michael Causer Foundation, of which I am a trustee. To prevent me going stir-crazy from being home all day, I decided to walk to the evening service at a nearby Anglican Church.
On the way, I passed the derelict Welsh Presbyterian Church (above), known as Toxteth Cathedral because of its size. When it was opened in 1868, it was the tallest building in Liverpool, standing 61 metres (200 ft) tall. It is a Grade II listed building, so it cannot be demolished because of its historical significance. It has been abandoned for more than twenty years but it is now owned by two preservation trusts, which plan to restore it.
Then I came to the city’s Georgian Quarter, the location for many film and TV dramas. St Bride’s Church is in the heart of the area, a Grade II* listed building considered to be the best surviving Neoclassical church in Liverpool. As I approached, I saw the scene below with the leaves glowing around the streetlight.
I attend this church at least once a month with my partner. We were attracted by their ethos, (which they express as Creative, Progressive, Inclusive). My partner coordinates Open Table, the monthly service for LGBT Christians, their families and friends, which has met here for more than four years. I wrote about this service last month.
However, I had never been to this particular service, called The Well, advertised as ‘a chance to explore the riches of the Celtic tradition and an approach to spirituality which finds God alive as much in the natural world as in the words of scripture. Simple liturgies, times of silence, poetry and art all play their part’. A diverse bunch assembled for the service, including a homeless woman, a pensioner and a Roman Catholic prison chaplain, along with a couple of other new faces.
A central part of the service was an invitation to join a Call To Action from Amnesty International which campaigns to protect human rights worldwide. One of the cases was from South Africa. In April 2011 24-year old Noxolo Nogwaza was raped, beaten and stabbed to death because of homophobia. She campaigned for LGBT rights. Her murder remains unsolved. We were invited to fill in a card to send to those who are fighting for justice in her name. Details of how you too can support her case are on the Amnesty website.
It led me to reflect on how relatively fortunate we are in the UK, where many of us can be ‘out’ about our sexuality or gender identity, and debate openly about issues like marriage equality without fear of reprisal. Elsewhere in the world our LGBT sisters and brothers literally risk their lives to speak out for justice. We cannot be complacent, and rest in the comfort of our own freedom, while others still suffer.