#ComeAsYouAre – Christians At Pride In Liverpool

Christians At Pride In Liverpool July 2019 PHOTO: Mark Loudon

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots on 28th June 1969, an act of resistance against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in New York. This was a galvanizing moment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) activists to unite in a movement fighting for civil rights, which has spread across the world.

While London has held a Pride march and festival each year close to the Stonewall anniversary since 1972, in Liverpool it has been held annually since 2010, on a Saturday close to the anniversary of the death of Michael Causer, an 18-year-old who died from horrific injuries caused by what police investigated as a homophobic attack.

For the past three years, the Open Table LGBT+ Christian community based at St Bride’s in Toxteth has co-ordinated the Christians At Pride group in Liverpool.

Christian Voice group protests at Pride.
PHOTO: Jonathan Jelfs

Each year, a group call Christian Voice protests at Pride marches around the country. To show that there is more than one Christian voice, Christians at Pride exists to provide a joyful, loving, inclusive Christian presence at Pride festivals around the UK.

In 2018 more than 100 Christians joined the group, including Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes, former Archdeacon of Liverpool Ricky Panter, and Sheryl Anderson, Chair of Liverpool Methodist District.

As Bishop Paul expressed on Twitter before walking with the Christians At Pride group last year:

‘Whatever Christians may believe about same-sex relationships, we surely all agree that homophobia / biphobia / transphobia is evil and wrong… Resist violence, resist homophobia, bless people, walk with us’.

Bishop Paul Bayes, Twitter, 27th July 2018

This year’s Pride In Liverpool was the first organised by the newly formed Liverpool City Region (LCR) Pride Foundation, which aims ‘to position Liverpool City Region as the most LGBT+ friendly region in the UK’. As community partners of the LCR Foundation, the leaders of the Open Table Liverpool community which meets at St Bride’s Church were among the first to know the theme for Pride In Liverpool 2019 – which was ‘Come As You Are’. We were delighted to hear this, as the Open Table community has used ‘Come As You Are’ as its slogan and message of unconditional welcome for many years.

Bishop Paul was unable to walk in solidarity with us this year, but he did record a brief message of support in this Youtube video (1 minute):

In this year’s march, around 100 amazing people from Open Table and a dozen or so other churches (including the Chair of the Methodist District again), gathered to march along with 12,000+ others.. It was a joy-full day, despite the rain, and celebration of life in all its richness and diversity. We were reminded of Jesus’ words:

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.

John 10:10b

Take a look at the wonderful photos from the march taken by photographer Mark Loudon on the march in this Youtube slideshow, accompanied by the hymn ‘Come As You Are’ by Deirdre Brown, from which the Open Table community took its slogan (2 minutes 30 seconds):

After the march, Open Table hosted a community stall during the Pride festival in the city centre. We invited people to ‘share some love, say thanks, make a wish, write a prayer’ on prayer flags in the colours of the rainbow flag. We also invited people to have selfies taken with our ‘Image Of God’ frame, as we are all beloved children of God, uniquely reflecting God’s image in our world. You can see them in this Facebook gallery.

That sense of joy continued into Sunday as 115 people gathered in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral for a Post-Pride Service which was truly a celebration of life.

Newly ordained deacon Lynne, who is involved with Open Table in St Helens, and Open Table Liverpool co-host Warren were interviewed by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Helen Jones for the Sunday morning programme Daybreak about the march, the Post-Pride service, Open Table and LGBT Christian experience. Listen here (6 minutes 18 seconds):

The Post-Pride service at Liverpool Cathedral was based on a poem written by Open Table member Jamie Haynes, and inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of recognising the beauty in broken objects and repairing them with gold, treating breakage and repair as part of the history of an object rather than something to be hidden or disguised. Download PDF: Kintsugi – A Pride Poem by Jamie Haynes.

Warren from Open Table Liverpool gave a personal reflection on the theme ‘Come As You Are’, and how it came to be the anthem of Open Table. Listen here (11 minutes):

During the service people were welcomed to come forward to light a candle and, in words or in silence, bring before God our prayers of love, hope, thanks and concern. We also shared the intentions that went into making the prayer flags on our community stall at the Pride festival.

We also invite people to be anointed with oil. Anointing is an ancient ritual, practiced in many faiths. In Christianity, it is used to denote blessing and is a symbol that the anointed person is sacred and loved by God. As each person was anointed, these words were spoken, based on the Kintsugi poem:

There is gold dust in your veins and radiance in your heart. No matter your path, God walks beside you.

Blessing for anointing at Liverpool Cathedral Post-Pride Service

Photographer Mark Loudon also took pictures at the Post-Pride Cathedral Service which are in this Facebook gallery.

The service concluded with a slide show inspired by Open Table Liverpool’s Lent course this year, which explored the themes of redemption in The Greatest Showman based on a book by Rachel Mann, a trans Anglican priest.

The slideshow includes photos of the Open Table Liverpool community and the story of Pride In Liverpool, accompanied by the big hit from the movie, This Is Me (4 minutes):

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First published on stbridesliverpool.org.uk

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