AT THE ANNUAL MEETING this weekend of the parish where the first Open Table community began, I spoke about my journey with this community over the last 15 years, and the new stage I am now entering, which would not have happened without their support. This is what I shared:
This church has been my spiritual home for much of my time in Liverpool – 20 years this year.
When Warren and I met 15 years ago, he would go to an Anglican church on a Sunday morning, and I would go to a Catholic church. We didn’t usually worship together. Then the first Open Table communion services began here in June 2008, and I came to most of those once a month for about three years. During that time, I could see how life-giving this parish was for Warren, so I started to come with Warren to St Bride’s on a Sunday morning in 2011.
Then we went on a parish pilgrimage and I began to feel more like I belonged, and that Warren and I, individually and together, were welcomed and affirmed by the parish to bring everything we had to offer. So after that pilgrimage I ended up co-facilitating some community activities that were going on here, which led to the Soul Friends groups, what we called St Bride’s house groups. They’ve been running for about nine years now, so I’m very proud to have been part of that journey.
As the Open Table community began to grow and multiply eight years ago, I stepped out from supporting Warren with the Open Table community here into supporting the growth of the network of communities. We’ve gone from one to 33 communities across England and Wales in eight years, with more to come. Because of all of that growth, the Open Table Network became a charity in 2021, with St Bride’s as its registered office.
Because my ministry has taken me elsewhere, I haven’t been here much since the church reopened last year. The last time I was here for a Sunday morning service was in November 2021 when Warren and I were interviewed as part of the ‘Living Stones’ series about how we came to be involved with St Bride’s.
In autumn 2021 I went on retreat to reflect on my journey and the Open Table journey, and I came away from that retreat with a strong sense of calling to ordained ministry. As a married gay man, I have gone as far as I am able within the Church of England, but as I have been working with other church traditions for many years, I know that the Methodist Church is more inclusive and affirming. I became a member of the Methodist Church last year, have begun training as a local preacher, and discerning whether to train as a Methodist minister.
So that’s why I’m not here as much as I used to be, and I miss it, but I know that the love of this place has nurtured me, nurtured us both, and nurtured our Open Table community here, whose vision I take from this place to share across the country, and that’s a great blessing.
This year, the Open Table Network received a grant from the United Reformed Church, and from next week I will begin working from the URC Mersey Synod office. So we’ll be moving the charity’s registered office away from St Bride’s.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the PCC of the Team Parish of St Luke in the City, and in particular the community at St Bride’s, for their generous hospitality and commitment to inclusion which has made this phenomenal journey possible. This would not have happened without our allies, like you, who have welcomed, included, affirmed and empowered us to make it happen, with God’s help.