In praise of God for LGBT History Month

FEBRUARY is LGBT History Month in the UK, an annual commemoration of the lives and achievements of LGBT+ people.

LGBT History Month 2019 logo

Now in its 15th year, it was set up by Schools Out UK, which has campaigned for LGBT+ inclusion through education since 1974.

This year’s theme is Peace, Activism and Reconciliation, as 2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in the LGBT+ civil rights movement.

So, how do LGBT+ inclusive churches mark this occasion? Here are just a few examples from the Open Table network of ecumenical worship communities for LGBT+ Christians and all who seek an inclusive church.

A rainbow cake decorated with the words 'Safe Space' and the United Reformed Church logo
A rainbow cake a Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge

On the first Sunday of the month, around 130 people gathered at Emmanuel United Reformed Church in Cambridge as the Open Table community which meets there joined with the regular Sunday morning congregation for a celebratory service, with music accompanied by the Sing Out Cambridge LGBT+ community choir, followed by coffee and rainbow cake.

On the same night, around 30 people gathered for the Open Expression service at Stoke Baptist Church, our Open Table community in Stoke-on-Trent, which was recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio Stoke, the only BBC local radio station that still gives a slot for Christian worship in its Sunday schedule.

Members of Open Expression and Stoke Baptist Church after the recording of their service

Extracts of the service were broadcast during BBC Radio Stoke’s In Praise Of God programme on Sunday 17th February – the time for discussion, personal prayer and communion was omitted. Listen here (29 minutes):

Open Expression service for LGBT History Month, TX BBC Radio Stoke 17/01/19

As Open Table network coordinator, I was interviewed live during BBC Radio Stoke’s Sunday breakfast programme on the day of the broadcast. Listen here (6 minutes):

Open Table network coordinator Kieran Bohan interview TX BBC Radio Stoke 17/01/19
Colin Coward was awarded the MBE in June 2014 for serving the LGBTI community around the world.

On the evening of Sunday 17th, the Open Table London community met at St James’ Anglican Church in Hampstead, to hear from their guest speaker, Colin Coward. Colin has devoted much of his ministry to working with honesty, commitment and energy over decades for full LGBTI+ equality, inclusion and affirmation in the Anglican Communion and beyond. He also writes on his blog, Unadulterated Love, about the embodied life of the spirit, meditation and our own need to cultivate and integrate our lives of faith and love. In this special service, Colin shared insights from his life, work and vision, and his commitment to the fullness of the Kingdom of God which we experience in Jesus Christ. The liturgy took a contemplative and meditative approach as Colin led an exploration of ‘Body, Energy & Contemplation.’

Phil Johnson reflecting on his full life of love and activism

Back in Liverpool around fifty people gathered for the Open Table community which meets at St Bride’s Anglican Church. During a communion celebration, the Rector of the parish, Miranda Threlfall-Holmes , who is also a historian, interviewed Phil Johnson, a long term member of Open Table, about his life as an openly gay man for sixty years and an activist for more than fifty years. Phil’s reflections on his life of activism, love and faith were funny and moving, humbling and inspiring.

The beautiful community of Open Table Liverpool

We also shared resources about:

  • LGBT History Month and the four role models chosen for the campaign this year:
    • Marielle Franco, bisexual Brazillian human rights activist;
    • Magnus Hirschfeld, German sexologist and gay rights advocate;
    • Marsha P Johnson, African-American transgender activist credited for instigating the Stonewall riots; and
    • Robert Graves, prolific poet and writer who was open about his attraction to men as well as women.
  • Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, which is the week after Valentine’s Day each year to share information about aromanticism. Someone who is aromantic does not experience romantic attraction to anyone, regardless of gender.

The special communion celebration at St Bride’s Liverpool included this prayer, with which I will close:

Transcendent God, you took human form, and with it human sexuality and gender, entering into our world.
We remember 50 years ago, a riot broke out as a response to years of victimization and oppression.
We lift up those lives and their voices, remembering their hardship and victories.
We ask to know your Spirit, that we may give voice to those without one, and work together to end the oppression of your LGBTQIA+ children.
As members of the body of Christ, help us to provide healing to marginalised people and communities, removing the barriers that separate your children from access to hope, safety and life abundant.
May we and this church be a safe haven.
This we pray in the name of Christ. Amen.

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