FIVE YEARS AGO today I began this blog – little did I know then that:
NOT the answer to the Ultimate Question!
- having ‘come out of the church‘ in 2011, I would return to a different church where my husband and I would be accepted, encouraged and authorised as lay leaders (though still with limitations because we are married)
- little more than a year after our civil partnership in May 2012 (the first to be registered in a place of worship in the UK), the UK marriage law would change again, enabling us to convert our civil partnership to marriage in November 2015, and receive a certificate backdated to May 2012, so that what everyone already saw as a marriage was now recognised as such in law.
- we would replace the flat we were renting, sharing and redecorating with a a large house and garden of our own as part of an affordable community housing project.
- my job search at that time would lead me through what I thought was my dream job as Development Worker to the Michael Causer Foundation (which was not to be as I didn’t succeed in funding my own salary), and on to new opportunities as Chaplain to YMCA Liverpool, Communications Officer for Modern Church, and a freelance practitioner in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) for the Appreciating Church project. In fact the job application I was making in 2012 was my introduction to AI – I used the principles of this theory of community development to present my vision for the future of the organisation!
- I would become a volunteer role model for Diversity Role Models, Barnardo’s and Stonewall
- I would meet Stephen Fry
- I would contribute to telling the story of LGBT Liverpool and share artefacts and stories for an exhibition of the city’s LGBT history
- this blog would enable some deep conversation with family members.
- I would say a final farewell to my dad who was given 48 hours to live in 2008 and lasted another five and a half years!
- the monthly communion Open Table service for LGBT+ Christians and friends which my husband and I helped to set up in June 2008 would grow from six people to an average of 15 people a month in 2012 to more than 60 people for the visit of our bishop in July 2017, and a growing network of churches hosting similar ecumenical worship communities across England and North Wales (ten as I write, with more to come).
- that a brief history of Open Table would be included in a book of essays sent to General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, to inform their debate on issues of sexuality and marriage in July 2016, and that around eighty members of General Synod would attend an Open Table Eucharist in July 2017.
- I would be without a car for a further two years, then end up relying on a car to reach the six hostels I visit weekly as a chaplain and the growing number of Open Table communities.
- my reflection on what it means to be an Inclusive Church in 2013 would become the most viewed post and form the basis of a reflection at the second Open Table community in April 2017
- Church leaders would become more vocal in support of LGBT+ people, like Steve Chalke, the Baptist founder of Oasis Church who called for an ‘open conversation’ about sexuality as ‘a matter of integrity’, and Paul Bayes, the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool who addressed the marchers at Liverpool Pride in 2017.
It’s been quite a journey, beyond my expectations, for which I am most grateful. Thank you to all who read, share, and comment on these reflections – it’s been a pleasure to share the journey with you!