TEN YEARS AGO today (as I turned 42) I began this blog. I wrote a brief retrospective after five years. Here’s an update on the next five:
- having ‘come out of the Catholic church‘ in 2011, then authorised as a lay leader in Church of England, I have now become a Methodist thanks to its commitment to inclusion, justice, dignity and solidarity for all, especially LGBT+ people. I also contributed to a Methodist Church webinar on supporting survivors of abuse: From stumbling block to stepping stone. In my last Sunday service at the CofE church in November 2021, my husband and I gave this interview about our journey.
- as the Church of England continues its conversations on identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, formerly known as Shared Conversations, now called Living In Love And Faith, I became a chaplain for the process in the Diocese of Liverpool, and wrote these prayers. I have also been an advocate for the process (or rather, the LGBT+ people who are impacted by it), and gave this reflection at a vigil for justice in Liverpool Cathedral.
- in 2017 we named our new home after Fr Mychal Judge, a gay Franciscan friar in recovery from addiction who became Chaplain to the Fire Department of the City of New York and the first recorded victim of the Twin Towers attacks on September 11th 2001. This talk in 2017 and this short reflection from 2020 explain why.
- between 2017-2019 I contributed several artefacts to Tales from the City, an exhibition telling the story of LGBT Liverpool.
- in 2018 I said farewell to my uncle Simon, the last of my mum’s siblings, who died in Ireland just a few miles from where he was born and lived all his life, and my neighbour Stephen, who died suddenly on Christmas Day – he was just five years older than me.
- Also in 2018 I offered a reflection on Liverpool’s Stonewall moment at the first Post-Pride celebration hosted by the city’s Anglican Cathedral.
- In 2019 I took part in the Journey of Hope, a six-month training programme in ‘Christian peace-building and reconciliation… to inspire and equip Christian leaders to become skilled practitioners of reconciliation in their churches and communities.’ This rich experience led to a series of reflections.
- Also in 2019 I supported Yew Fook Sam, a Malaysian man seeking asylum in the UK because of his sexuality. A petition to the Home Office helped Sam’s appeal, and he won the right to remain here. In 2022 he recorded this interview with me and two other people seeking refuge in the UK.
- I spent four years as Chaplain to YMCA Liverpool, and 18 months at YMCA St Helens. During this time, I supported homeless YMCA residents to unveil a statue of Homeless Jesus in Liverpool, made plans to re-open a chapel closed for 20+ years in St Helens, and remembered residents who had died on World Homeless Day. I also reflected on the Christian mission of the YMCA, and my most frequently asked question: ‘So what is a chaplain then?‘
- 2020 began with the #10YearChallenge social media trend – I decided to take part with this reflection.
- In March 2020 I shared this prayer of shelter and shadow for the National Day of Prayer for the Coronavirus Crisis. While I was furloughed from the YMCA for three months, I began doing more to support the Open Table Network (OTN), a growing partnership of communities across England & Wales which welcome and affirm people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, & Asexual (LGBTQIA) + our families, friends & anyone who wants to belong in an accepting, loving community. This led to securing a Covid crisis response grant which enabled me to go full-time from October 2020. This enabled us to increase our online outreach. I offered this reflection on coming out as LGBT+ and Christian for our first regular online worship video in the same month.
- the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, who retired earlier this year, returned to the Open Table Liverpool community in 2017 to reflect on walking with Christians At Pride in the city. In 2018 he became the Chair of a new charity to tackle prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender in religious organisations. In 2020 he became a Patron of OTN, which completed registration as a charity in 2021. The network of communities has grown from ten in August 2017 to 25 in August 2022, with three more communities planning to launch this year.
- Another Patron of the OTN, Barbara Glasson, who was the inspiration behind starting this blog, became President of the Methodist Church in Britain in 2019, and mentioned Open Table in her Presidential Address to the Methodist Conference that year.
- Trans priest and broadcaster Rachel Mann, also a Patron of OTN, recorded a Sunday Worship service for BBC Radio 4 in 2020, which included my reflection on the abundant growth of the network.
- A vicar whose church is considering whether to host an Open Table community interviewed me in 2020 about Radical Welcome: What does it mean to be an inclusive church? I am leading a community consultation with his church this weekend.
- An attempt to visit Liverpool and other UK cities by controversial US preacher Franklin Graham in 2020 led to cancellations by venues – I researched the reasons why and spoke to BBC Radio Merseyside. Franklin Graham was able to return to the UK in May 2022 for a tour called God Loves You. I offered this reflection at an alternative event hosted by Liverpool Parish Church, called Liverpool Loves You.
- In April 2022 I shared my faith story in the My Faithful Ally podcast.
- in May 2022 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of our civil partnership (the first to be registered in a place of worship in the UK) which we converted to marriage in November 2015.
- In June 2022 I spoke to BBC local radio about the 50th anniversary of Pride in the UK, and how things have changed for LGBT+ people in general, and LGBT+ Christian in particular, in that time.
Reflecting on the last five years reminds me of the words of the prayer for the Open Table Network which I wrote inspired by Journey of Hope reconciliation course:
Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Your kingdom come, your will be done, among us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.