Going on an errand – A poem for #WorldPoetryDay

MARCH 21st each year is celebrated as World Poetry Day, to recognise the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ( UNESCO) proclaimed March 21st as World Poetry Day in 1999.

One of the aims of World Poetry Day is to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals. Today I asked friends on Facebook what was their favourite poem, and added a few of my own. In doing so, I recalled that my dad was great at reciting some poems by heart. I shared one of these here – it has become one of the most viewed posts on this blog!

There’s Teddy White
flying his kite,
He thinks himself grand
I declare!
I’d like to make it fly
up sky high,
Ever so much higher
than the old church spire.

Here is another:

Going on an Errand

A pound of tea at one and three
And a pot of raspberry jam,
Two new laid eggs, a dozen pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham.

I’ll say it over all the way
And then I’m sure not to forget,
For if I chance to bring things wrong
My Mother gets in such a sweat.

A pound of tea at one and three
And a pot of raspberry jam,
Two new laid eggs, a dozen pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham.

There in the hay the children play,
They’re having such fine fun!
I’ll go there too, that’s what I’ll do,
As soon as my errands are done.

A pound of tea at one and three,
A pot of new laid jam,
Two raspberry eggs with a dozen pegs,
And a pound of rashers of ham.

There’s Teddy White flying his kite,
He thinks himself grand I declare!
I’d like to make it fly up sky high,
Ever so much higher than the old church spire.

And then – but there…

A pound of three at one and tea,
A pot of new laid jam,
Two dozen eggs, some raspberry pegs,
And a pound of rashers of ham.

Now here’s the shop, outside I’ll stop
And run my orders through again,
I haven’t forgot – it’s better not,
It shows I’m pretty quick, that’s plain.

A pound of tea at one and three,
A dozen of raspberry ham,
A pot of eggs with a dozen pegs,
And a rasher of new laid jam.

– Anonymous

What’s your favourite poem – and why?

US evangelist Franklin Graham claims ‘persecution’ as UK venues cancel preaching tour bookings

IN 1984, charismatic preacher Billy Graham came to Liverpool at the invitation of local churches as part of a six-date tour called Mission England. This June, his son Franklin intends to come to the city, though the venue has withdrawn the booking, as have all seven of the other UK venues on his planned tour. So what’s going on?

Franklin Graham

In my role as co-ordinator of Open Table, a network of ecumenical Christian worship communities which offer a warm welcome to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) and all who seek an inclusive Church, I have received a number of requests about how we are responding to the planned visit of this controversial preacher.

One request came from BBC Radio Merseyside’s Sunday morning Daybreak programme, which interviewed Franklin Graham and gave us an opportunity to reply. Here is the interview with Franklin Graham (6 minutes 55 seconds):

Interview with Franklin Graham, BBC Radio Merseyside 02/02/2020

Here is the response from me and Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, Rector of the church where Open Table began in 2008 (7 mins 38 seconds):

Kieran Bohan & Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, BBC Radio Merseyside 02/02/2020

This reflection is based on my additional research before the interview, much of which there was no time to include, and subsequent developments.

Franklin Graham argues that his religious beliefs are being persecuted and freedom of speech denied. However he, and the Evangelical Association that bears his father’s name, have significant resources to be able to hire huge venues as a platform for their message. This seems to be expensive and privileged speech. He is entitled to say what he wishes, but he is not free from responsibility for the consequences of his speech (and nor are any of us). He says ‘it’s a shame that a very small group of people can be vocal and can deny a person their rights’, yet he has vocally opposed the rights of LGBT people in inflammatory ways, such as saying that ‘gays and lesbians cannot have children… [but] they can recruit’ children into their cause. In the same interview, he spoke in favour of Russian President Putin’s 2013 federal law ‘for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values‘ which opposes content presenting homosexuality as being a norm in society. He has also spoken in favour of ‘conversion therapy‘ which claims to re-orientate people to become heterosexual. This is despite the fact that there is no robust peer-reviewed research to demonstrate that such ‘therapy’ is effective, though there is much to show that it is harmful. For example, in the UK National Faith & Sexuality Survey, Ozanne Foundation 2018, lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians surveyed rated their mental and emotional health and well-being as significantly lower than their heterosexual peers, especially those who had undergone ‘conversion therapy’ in an attempt to alter their sexual orientation. In 2017 a Memorandum of Understanding on conversion therapy in the UK was signed by 13 professional counselling and psychotherapy organisations, including the Association of Christian Counsellors. This document informed the Church of England General Synod’s call to the UK Government to ban the controversial practice. Similarly, there is no reputable evidence to suggest that an LGBT person can ‘recruit’ or ‘convert’ anyone to become LGBT. In fact, research into age-appropriate LGBT-inclusive education suggests that it significantly reduces the risk and incidence of bullying and promotes the resilience and well-being of LGBT students. In the words of the It Gets Better performance based on LGBT people’s stories:

‘We don’t want your straight kids to be gay. We want your gay kids to survive’.

itgetsbettertour.org

These were just some of Franklin Graham’s comments which those who are opposing his 2020 UK visit have brought to the attention of the venues which have now withdrawn his bookings.

In response to these objections, Franklin Graham issued an open letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK on his Facebook page, in which he wrote:

I invite everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages that I will be bringing from God’s Word, the Bible. You are absolutely welcome.

A letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK, Franklin Graham 27/01/20

The language of the letter implies that you cannot be LGBT and Christian. Some of us are living on the intersection of these identities, and Open Table is living proof of that.

Yet he has also been recorded saying that ‘We have to be so careful who we let into the churches’:

We have allowed the Enemy to come into our churches. I was talking to some Christians and they were talking about how they invited these gay children to come into their home and to come into the church and that they were wanting to influence them. And I thought to myself, they’re not going to influence those kids; those kids are going to influence those parent’s children. What happens is we think we can fight by smiling and being real nice and loving. We have to understand who the Enemy is and what he wants to do. He wants to devour our homes. He wants to devour this nation and we have to be so careful who we let our kids hang out with. We have to be so careful who we let into the churches.

Franklin Graham, Dr Dobson’s Family Talk, January 2016

If you’re still in any doubt about the legitimacy of the opposition to Franklin Graham’s visit, perhaps it will help to note that this is not just an LGBT community issue (if that were not a good enough reason).

When Franklin Graham came to Blackpool in 2018, the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement asking the Home Office to deny Franklin Graham a visa to come to the UK, following his claims that Islam is ‘evil’ and ‘wicked’ in the context of a discussion in Islam’s role in the United States following 9/11. While it is just to condemn such extreme terrorist atrocities, it is not justified to conflate the extreme views which cause these actions with the entire religion. In the same way. it would not be right to say that the whole of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are ‘evil’ and ‘wicked’ because sectarian differences have been used to justify terrorism in the British Isles. The request to deny Franklin Graham a visa, which also had the support of three MPs, including a senior member of the government, was declined.

Others who have spoken against Graham’s visit this year include the Anglican Bishop of Sheffield (and former Dean of Liverpool Cathedral), who attended Billy Graham’s UK events in the 1980s:

But to my sadness I detect a tailing off of humility and generosity in the Graham organisation since those days.

Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield

Paul Eddy, a traditionalist Anglican member of General Synod, points out that, unlike his father’s visits to the UK, the forthcoming tour

is not a bottom-up mission, based on what God is doing at grass roots, and the local church leaders believing that the gifts of an external evangelist were needed to help ‘harvest’ what had been sown, no.  This is a ‘personal tour’ – very different.

Why is Franklin Graham being turned away? January 30th 2020

Based on first-hand experience of Billy Graham’s UK missions, Eddy notes that this tour has not been initiated at the invitation of local churches as those of his father always were. When the tour was announced, a British evangelical gave the organisers

a serious warning that coming to the UK to conduct festivals, without invitation, would undermine the church, its ongoing mission, and divide evangelicals.  Sadly, his words were prophetic.

In the same commentary Eddy also challenges, from a Biblically conservative position, Graham’s mantra that ‘homosexuality is sin’, and his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims as ‘unhelpful to many Christians working in predominantly Muslim communities in the UK’.

Meanwhile, a group of 17 evangelical Christians have published an open letter urging others not to back the American evangelist’s mission events, because they

find it hard to reconcile his public and partisan statements on such issues as immigration, poverty, gun control and Israel with our understanding of the teaching and values of Jesus Christ.

We evangelical Christians won’t support Franklin Graham’s UK tour, Guardian 07/02/2020

If, as Franklin Graham claims, the events he is planning in the UK this year go ahead, there are likely to be protests against them. Based on the responses above, they may be an unlikely alliance of LGBT+ folk, Muslims, Evangelicals and other Christians for whom Franklin Graham doesn’t speak. Non-violent resistance has a long and noble tradition in effecting change, with Extinction Rebellion as a recent notable example. In the LGBT rights movement, we have needed both the public protests of Peter Tatchell and OutRage! and the behind-the scenes lobbying of groups like Stonewall.

Will I, on behalf of Open Table, be joining the protests? Some members of the Open Table community may do so, as they did in Blackpool in 2018. On this occasion, I will focus my energy on celebrating the Open Table community, which is living proof to the false witness that Graham bears against the LGBT+ community. I am taking my inspiration from the words of Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr:

The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.

The Eight Core Principles of the Center for Action and Contemplation

In 2018, Open Table supported the Rainbow Weekend of inclusive events in Blackpool to counter Franklin Graham’s Festival Of Hope in the town. This year, the date when Graham intends to come to Liverpool coincides with the twelfth anniversary of the first Open Table, and the fifth anniversary of Open Table becoming a network of communities across England and Wales. So, rather than focus on what we are against, we will be celebrating what we stand for, which is expressed in Open Table’s mission and vision:

Our mission:

To create safe, sacred spaces for all people to encounter the infinite, unconditional, intimate love of God, offering a warm welcome to all who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA), their family and friends, and all who seek an inclusive church.

Our vision:

We believe our lives, our identities and our relationships are precious gifts from God, which we are called to live out with integrity. Our desire is to continue to build a community where this is evident, and which equips others to go out and do the same.

The date of the Open Table Network national celebration event is Saturday 13th June 2020, the day after Franklin Graham’s planned visit to Liverpool. SAVE THE DATE: Venue to be confirmed.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, as I don’t agree with all of the views expressed in the articles I have cited above. I do, however, expect a respectful dialogue. As those of us who have known what it is to be dehumanised and demonised may know, it doesn’t serve us well to do it to our opponents in return. As Richard Rohr also writes:

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Transforming Our Pain, Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

There are limits when respectful dialogue is absent:

We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.

US Civil rights activist James Baldwin

As Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes wrote on Twitter before walking with the Christians At Pride group in Liverpool in July 2018:

UPDATE 02/03/2020: Following feedback I updated the closing paragraphs about the relationship between protest and dialogue, to clarify that both are often necessary to advocate for and effect change.

UPDATE 01/04/2020: Franklin Graham says UK tour postponed until next year after venue cancellations, legal cases need to be settled

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans – What I learned from the #10YearChallenge

If you use social media, you’ve probably noticed a number of people posting then-and-now profile pictures in recent weeks.

It’s a trend that’s best known as the  #10YearChallenge, which involves people comparing pictures of themselves in 2009 to ones taken in 2019. It gathered momentum as we approached the end of the year and the end of the decade.

While I don’t usually take part in social media trends, this one seemed worthwhile, as this past ten years has been particularly significant for me. Here is what I shared on Facebook on New Year’s Day:

Our #10YearChallenge began with my first Christmas in Australia where I proposed to Warren during dinner overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge. We were each involved with different churches then, until 2011 when we both found a home at St Bride’s Liverpool. We had begun going there monthly in 2008 to support Open Table Liverpool but didn’t know then that we would end up running it, developing it into Open Table – Come As You Are, a network of communities across England and Wales and registering it as a charity in 2020. Warren was then a medical secretary at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, and is now approaching eight years at the Diocese of Liverpool. He started there just before our civil partnership in 2012, which his new colleagues learned about in the Church Times! Little did we know when I proposed that our civil partnership would be the first to be registered in a place of worship in the UK, and would make the news. Meanwhile, I had just become a full-time youth support worker at the Young Person’s Advisory Service with the longest-running LGBT+ youth group in the UK. Cuts to youth service funding led to redundancy and retraining as a chaplain, which is what I have been at the YMCA in Liverpool and St Helens for almost four years. It’s been an extraordinary time, for which I am most grateful. As I enter my 50th year, I hope the next decade holds similar promise of hopes exceeded by reality.

Me in 1989

It’s an interesting prospect to review life in larger chunks than just a year, as we often do around this time. I also found it interesting because of the juxtaposition with where I found myself ten and twenty years earlier than the ten-year challenge.

Thirty years ago, in December 1989, I had just completed my first term at university and experienced the first stirrings of what I thought was a call to priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Me in 1999

Twenty years ago, in December 1999, I had just moved into my first flat, after a brief period of being homeless. I had qualified as a primary school teacher to gain life experience before training for ministry in the Church. I completed three of six years, then left following a diagnosis of clinical depression.

I stayed with a religious community for about a year, with the romantic notion of joining them, but it wasn’t to be. I could have gone back to London to live with my retired parents, but that didn’t seem fair on them or right for me as I approached thirty. So I persevered with the help and hospitality of new friends I had made that year, and began a new chapter of my life as an openly gay man living independently for the first time. If I had ended the story here, it could have been easy to feel discouraged, as the plans I had made in my 20s had not turned out as expected. But as my #10YearChallenge photos show, a new plan emerged that was better than anything I could have expected at that time.

There have been a couple of occasions this year when I have been invited to reflect on where I was around 20 years ago, and how far I’ve come since then. The first was on the Journey of Hope pilgrimage of training in

‘Christian peace-building and reconciliation… to inspire and equip Christian leaders to become skilled practitioners of reconciliation in their churches and communities.’

reconcilerstogether.co.uk

One of the passages we were invited to reflect on while on the Journey of Hope course as the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). I had reflected on this passage over several days while I was on a silent retreat following my departure from training for Catholic priesthood. At the time I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality and find a new way of being in relationship with God, my family and others. At that time, my experience of the story was to recall my own time of ‘dwelling among the tombs’, especially the circumstances of a breakdown ten years before that. Hearing the story again this year in the context of a course on reconciliation, I experienced the call of Jesus to ‘go home to your own people’ as a challenge – as an openly gay Christian called to ministry with and advocacy for the LGBTI+ Christian community, I recognised the dynamic which called the marginalised to speak back to the community which marginalises its own people. You can read my reflection on this passage here.

The second opportunity came through my new role this past year as chaplain at YMCA St Helens. Until recently, St Helens had the highest suicide rate in England and Wales. In response, a local artist began an artistic project called the Suicide Chronicles to address the lack of an effective language through which we can publicly discuss this issue.  In Chronicle One, three women from Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide reclaim this experience and give an audience public access to a private world. Chronicle Two, currently in progress, is working with professionals who support people experiencing mental distress and at risk of suicide. This includes colleagues at YMCA St Helens, as well as paramedics and prison officers.

One of the exercises was to illustrate around ten key moments in our lives which have led us to where we are today. I chose to trace my journey to becoming the chaplain at YMCA St Helens, which began with the breakdown that let me to leave training for priesthood. I will share more about this project when it is complete in the next few months.

These experiences have reminded me of some words of wisdom shared with me around 15 years ago as I left teaching to begin training for priesthood. The owner of the house where I lodged while teaching gave me a card featuring the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, which is perhaps better known by its first line:

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 

On the back of the card, my landlady had written:

Your line is: ‘Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.’

It seems fitting to recall this on starting a new year, a new decade. So much in our culture at this time is about resolving to become a better person – ‘New Year, New You’. But how much time do we take to appreciate how far we have already come to be the person we already are?

A prayer for Christmas morning

AT A carol service this month, hosted by the Open Table inclusive Christian community in Liverpool, I read one of the prayers, which I found moving, inspiring and too good not to share.

It’s a prayer for Christmas morning produced by enfleshed.com, a website which provides resources ‘that matter most. that addresses honestly, tenderly, and directly, the beauty and pain of living enfleshed lives.’

Look around.
The Sacred has collided with the flesh.
Holiness incarnates.
The Spirit of Christ has come.
Wars still rage. Hunger persists. White supremacy continues.
The joy of Christmas does not shield us from betraying one another,
from building walls, from shunning queer love or normalizing misogyny.
And yet.
And yet.
Here in the midst of it
God is with us.
As close as our own breath,
as deep as our longings,
as intimate as the love we share,
as present as our hunger, our pain, our pleasure, our touch.
In the middle of a world swirling with chaos,
something new is born.
Something that turns us towards each other,
that will keep us dreaming of an economy
that doesn’t profit from the poor,
that will make us proud of queering notions of love and relationship,
that will give us the courage to disrupt the lies of white supremacy,
that will help us stay soft even when things are so very hard,
that will remind us how powerful Love can be when it is channeled in the direction of collective liberation.
Today, we are reminded that we don’t have to look very far for the source of our hope.
We just have to pay attention. Close attention.
Listening carefully in the midst of all the noise.
Letting wisdom bubble up from within.
Moving at the pace of God, not of production.
Take courage. Linger in the mystery. Look anew at one another.
Christ has come. All flesh shall be set free.

enfleshed.com/pages/for-christmas-morning

Will you welcome #HomelessJesus this Christmas?

TODAY the YMCAs in the Liverpool City Region gathered for a carol service in the city’s Parish Church, opposite the world famous Liver Building. As the chaplain for YMCA Liverpool and YMCA St Helens, I gave a reflection on the Christmas story and what it means for the people the YMCA supports:

‘Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay’

So we hear again the story of Christmas. Maybe we’ve heard it so often that we haven’t noticed – Jesus knew what it meant to be homeless.

The manger we hear of in that famous children’s carol wasn’t a cosy crib – it was a feeding trough for animals. The newly-born Jesus and his parents were sleeping rough among livestock far from home.

After news of the birth of Jesus spread, they fled to Egypt to escape the violence of King Herod. Jesus and his parents were refugees, reliant on the hospitality of another country for their safety.

After they returned home, the 12-year-old Jesus was separated from his family in Jerusalem for several days before they found him. Jesus knew what it meant to be a ‘runaway child’, a ‘missing person’.

As an adult, Jesus lived in poverty ‘with no place to lay his head’, as we hear in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 9. He relied on the hospitality of others, and didn’t have a permanent home of his own. He reached out to people who were homeless, poor and oppressed. His actions are a model for how we might respond to poverty in our own lives and communities.

In the prologue from the Gospel of John, it says ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ These words were first written in Greek – a more accurate translation would be ‘pitched his tent among us’. The sight of people sleeping in tents on our streets has become far too common.

So what would this homeless Jesus say to us today? Maybe something here can help us answer that question.

The Homeless Jesus statue in the grounds of Liverpool Parish Church

At the end of a conference on homelessness in April this year, I supported four members of the YMCA community to reveal a moving tribute to those who sleep rough in our city. The event, called ‘Homeless and Rough Sleeping – Who Cares?’, was held at Liverpool Parish Church.

The church commissioned a bronze sculpture called ‘Homeless Jesus’, and invited our residents to unveil it, and meet other guests, including the Lord Mayor, and the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool who prayed for a blessing on the statue and all whom it represents.

The statue is in the garden of the church, better known to locals, including the homeless people who seek shelter here, as ‘St Nick’s’. If you can, go and see it.

It’s not your typical portrayal of Jesus – the sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz represents a life-size homeless person lying on a bench.

The figure is shrouded in a blanket with its face covered – in these dark winter days, the homeless Jesus is easily mistaken at dusk for a real, living homeless person, curled up under a blanket, rejected and alone.

The only indication that it represents Jesus is the visible wounds on the bare feet – the nail holes, the marks of crucifixion. Jesus preached a radical message of peace, justice and love that would eventually get him killed.

The sculpture suggests that Jesus is with the most marginalized in our society. Engraved on the flagstone in front of the bench is the message behind the artwork: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’, which echoes the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25. Despite the message behind the statue, some people aren’t happy about seeing Jesus represented as a homeless person. Copies of the statue have toured the world, but some churches have refused the invitation to host it because of the potential controversy. The sculpture of homeless Jesus has been denied a home.

One resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, fearful for her safety, called the police when she first spied the statue at night, believing that a homeless person had come to stay in her neighbourhood. She rejected the sculptor’s theology, too, protesting that Jesus stands watch over the homeless to protect and care for them, so he cannot be one of them.

A homeless person huddled on a park bench is a sight we recognize only too well. We tend to ignore, walk past, and even step over homeless people. Encountering this sculpture is a stark reminder that our neighbour is homeless. Seeing Jesus in the rough sleeper on the bench is also a reminder that we are all made in the image of God. For the person suffering on that bench, cast out by us and our community, truly to be a beloved child of God – maybe that fearful American woman is right to call that a scandal!

If you dare to come so near, there is enough room left over for one person to sit on the bench – to make people think: ‘Would I sit next to a homeless person on a bench? Would I sit next to homeless Jesus?’

There is a beautiful poem by Elizabeth Barrette called When I Was Naked, which tells the story of a homeless man’s encounter with the statue on a cold, snowy night. His heart breaks to see ‘a dark figure huddled on a bench’. It might have looked something like this:

The Homeless Jesus sculpture in Bruges, Belgium, covered in snow

He covers the bare feet with his own coat, and discovers that it is a statue. He says: ‘I thought he was real – It made me worry about him.’ He sits at the feet of Homeless Jesus and shares his own story, saying, ‘Sometimes, it’s nice to talk with somebody who’s been there.‘

In Jesus, God experienced the full spectrum of human suffering. The sculpture of Homeless Jesus invites us to reflect and remember to love all of humanity, and that everyone, no matter what their status in life, deserves to be treated with dignity, not only at Christmas, but every day.

We also watched this Christmas message giving insight into the reality for people
who find themselves homeless at a supposed time of joy and goodwill.
Its called The Gift Of Hope – Hold On Pain Ends [5 minutes 30 seconds]

Queer Faith Voices: Is faith inherently queer?

US Episcopal priest and author Liz Edman takes centre stage at the ‘Queer Faith Voices’ event, which also heard contributions from (L-R) Christopher Greenough, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religion, Edge Hill University; Ellen Loudon (Chair), Director of Social Justice for the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool, me and Char Binns,  Interim Director of Homotopia – the longest running queer arts festival in the UK and part of the core team of Liverpool Queer Collective. PHOTO: Mark Loudon

AS PART of the tour of Merseyside by Queer Virtue author Liz Edman last month, I took part in a panel discussion called ‘Queer Faith Voices’.

Liz uses the term ‘queer’ in the academic sense, as a verb meaning ‘to disturb / disrupt false binaries’. These binaries can relate to gender (male/female) or sexuality (heterosexual/homosexual), but they can be so much more than that. In the field of ‘queer theology’, Liz applies this term to Jesus, who ‘queers’ the boundaries between human and divine in the Church’s understanding by being fully human AND fully divine, not one OR the other. The subtitle of Liz’s book Queer Virtue is ‘What LGBTQ people know about life and love and how it can revitalise Christianity’. Liz argues that, because our communities have needed to ask deep questions about our identity and faith while others tell us we cannot be both ‘queer’ and Christian, we may have much to teach the Church about the radical nature of Jesus and Christianity. This echoes what I have written elsewhere as part of, and in response to, Barbara Glasson’s book The Exuberant Church: Listening to the prophetic people of God, on the process of ‘coming out’ as a spiritual experience, ‘both profoundly human and deeply of God’.

Here is my opening reflection on what it means for me to have become a ‘queer faith voice’:

Giving my opening reflection at the ‘Queer Faith Voices’ event, Saturday 23rd November 2019. PHOTO: Mark Loudon

My mum thought I was going to tell her that I’d murdered someone.

Such was my intensity when I finally came out to my parents at age 28.

Why was I so late and so earnest in finding my ‘queer voice’? Largely because my ‘faith voice’ formed first, making it harder to express my minority report of dissent.

At university I’d begun to admit I might have feelings for other men. I knew the Student Union had an LGBT+ group but I wouldn’t go because I didn’t think I was ‘one of them’.

Because of my Irish Catholic upbringing, I heard from adults I was taught to trust and respect that it wasn’t OK to be gay, that it was ‘unnatural’. Who was I to question it? Some Christians and other people of faith believe all sexual activity outside marriage and having children is ‘unnatural’ and so forbidden, so it’s not just about homosexuality, though you could be forgiven for thinking that because of all the attention it gets.

One drunken evening in a University bar, I tried confiding in a flatmate (whom I secretly adored as a fine example of God’s creation!). I asked, ‘What would you say if I told you I was gay?’ My hypothetical question meant I could deny it if he didn’t respond well. He told me to ‘go out and shag lots of women and get over it!’

Later that year he found in my room a book about becoming a Catholic priest. As a fellow Catholic, he knew Catholic priests promise to be celibate (that is, not to marry or have children). Again, he told me to ‘go out and shag lots of women and get over it!’ It seemed to be his answer for everything! It wasn’t happening for me.

After university I became a primary school teacher. I confided in a Catholic priest who was governor of a school where I worked that I might be attracted to men. He told me I should reconsider my future in education because if I got to a certain age and wasn’t married, people might think I was unsafe with their children. I felt unable to tell anyone what he said in case they thought he was right.

I left that school and began training to become a priest. I thought I would probably never marry, so becoming a priest would be more acceptable to my parents. But I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I became depressed. Sometimes I literally wished I didn’t exist.

Then I saw the film Priest, written by Jimmy McGovern and made in Liverpool, about a priest who falls in love with another man. It was beautiful and moving, and helped me to accept my feelings. I confided in another student, who told me he felt the same way, and we were able to support each other until we each decided to leave.

My mum used to say I could talk to her about anything. I thought: ‘Not if you knew what I really want to talk to you about!’ When I finally said ‘I’m gay’, my dad said: ‘God still loves you’ – the closest he ever came to saying he loved me. He added: ‘But you won’t be getting into a relationship, will you?’, since that’s what the Catholic Church says about gay people – that we’re OK as long as we don’t act on our desires.

Once they could see I was well and happy, they accepted me completely. What could have wrecked our relationship (and still does for some LGBT+ people) brought us closer than ever before. Knowing my parents accepted me made it easier to accept myself. When I met Warren, I knew I wanted to share my life with him, and they were so welcoming to him.

It was on Merseyside that I began to find my ‘queer faith voice’. My first visit to the region was to Loyola Hall, a retreat centre in Rainhill, sadly now closed. They ran an LGBT+ Christian weekend every autumn for many years. There I met many people who became and remain friends, and it was part of the reason I moved to Liverpool. So be careful what you pray for! This year, I was privileged to co-facilitate the LGBT+ retreat at its new home, St Beuno’s in North Wales. It’s been quite a journey!

After arriving in Liverpool almost 17 years ago, I joined the local Quest group for LGBT+ Catholics, then became one of the leadership team. In 2007 we were called ‘dissident group’ and forbidden from meeting on Catholic premises when the Archbishop received complaints about us celebrating Mass in the University Catholic Chaplaincy. We weren’t given the right to reply to our critics.

For several years the Quest group met in Liverpool City Centre Methodist Church, better known as ‘Somewhere Else’, or ‘the bread church’. They have a poster there called ‘How To Build Community’, which concludes with these words:

‘Know that no-one is silent, though many are not heard.
Work to change this.’

I read this as an invitation and a challenge, to be heard, not just for myself, but for other LGBT+ Christians who struggle with sexual orientation and gender identity in faith communities that judge us, at best, to be defective heterosexual or cisgender people, rather than recognising and valuing the gifts and insights that embracing our diversity can bring.

Twelve years ago I met Warren at another LGBT+ Christian group that met in the same space. The following year we found St Bride’s, an Anglican church in the Georgian Quarter of Liverpool which welcomed us both and supported us to use our gifts to develop a monthly Christian service for members of the LGBT+ community, family and friends – more of that later.

In 2010, we were part of a group of Christians who approached the organisers of the first official Liverpool Pride festival about hosting a Christian service on the eve of the festival. They said they valued inclusion so would only support an interfaith celebration. So ‘Spectrum of Spirituality’ was born, and continued for six years.

In 2012, after four years together, Warren and I celebrated our civil partnership. We arranged to have a blessing in a church afterwards, but the law changed while we were planning it, so we were able to register our civil partnership in the church during the blessing service, just like many straight couples sign the register during a church wedding. We were the first couple to register a civil partnership in a place of worship in the UK.

Then in 2014 the law changed to allow same-sex couples to get married, and couples already in a civil partnership could convert to marriage [though not in most churches]. We converted our civil partnership to marriage in November 2015, and although it is against the law in England and Wales for couples like us to be married in an Anglican Church, the St Bride’s community held the most amazing thanksgiving celebration for us!

The monthly service for LGBT+ Christians, family and friends which meets at St Bride’s is called Open Table, which means everyone is welcome to join in the service, especially the bread and wine we share in remembrance of Jesus’ last meal with his friends before he died, known as the Last Supper.

When a handful of people met in 2008 to plan a monthly Communion service, someone asked: ‘Will it be Open Table?’ When she explained that it means all are welcome, all can come as they are, without any judgement of worthiness for membership, we felt this was so important because we hear too many stories of people who feared exclusion, or were excluded, from their church community, who felt unheard or unable to express themselves or give their talents. So Open Table was born.

Open Table is still going strong after more than eleven years, with up to sixty people attending each month in Liverpool. In 2015, other churches began asking for our guidance.

Open Table communities now meet in 16 other places across England and Wales, hosted by inclusive churches in the Anglican, United Reformed, Baptist and Methodist traditions, serving more than 300 people each month. More than 80 other churches have been in touch asking for our advice on making their communities more inclusive of LGBT+ people.

Our vision is of a world where LGBT+ people are fully included within our faith traditions and communities. Until then, we aim to create safe sacred spaces for all people to encounter the infinite, unconditional, intimate love of God, offering a warm welcome to all who identify as LGBT+ and all who seek an inclusive church.

Those six people who met at St Bride’s in June 2008 to create a safe sacred space for LGBT+ Christians had no idea we were starting a movement that would ‘do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine’ [Ephesians 3:20].

US Episcopal priest Liz Edman visits Liverpool for tour of events celebrating queer and faith identity

Next weekend I am privileged to be taking part in a panel discussion called ‘Queer Faith Voices’ as part of a tour by a visiting US priest and political strategist Liz Edman. She is the author of Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press, 2016). This is a guest post by Jen Williams promoting the tour. Jen has previously contributed to this blog here and here.

Liz Edman at the Stonewall Inn, New York
Photo by Keryn Lowry

The Rev’d Liz Edman, a ‘queer priest’ in the United States Episcopal Church, will visit Liverpool at the invitation of our Anglican Bishop for a three-day tour opening up a public conversation about queer and faith identity.

The tour invites all to come and hear the voices of today’s LGBTQ+ people of faith so that all might discover and unpack the unique insights that the queer community has to offer to its faith communities.

Liz Edman said:

‘This will be my first visit to Liverpool, and I can’t wait. This program started when Bishop Paul and I met over coffee and talked eagerly about how an appreciation for queerness can invigorate Christian life and teaching.

‘I absolutely love that he is now bringing together queer voices from within the church and from secular queer community to dialogue, to see what we can offer and learn from one another. 

‘I’m looking forward to a series of lively, thought-provoking conversations in your remarkable city.’

Edman’s tour begins with a fringe event of Homotopia, Liverpool’s longest running queer arts festival – a panel discussion called ‘Queer Faith Voices’ on Saturday 23rd November 2019, 7:30pm at LEAF on Bold Street.

Edman will be joined by a diverse panel of local LGBTQ+ speakers:

The panel will take turns to share their experiences as queer people of faith with the room, before the event opens to the audience for questions and further discussion. Tickets for ‘Queer Faith Voices’ are £5.98 and available at queerfaithvoices.eventbrite.co.uk. The ticket price includes a welcome drink and canapés; there is also a bar available for additional drinks.

Edman will then join the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Revd Paul Bayes, on Sunday 24th November to lead an ecumenical service of Holy Communion at Open Table Wigan, part of the Open Table network. Offering a particular welcome to the LGBTQIA+ community, their friends and family and all who seek an inclusive church, the service will take place at St John’s Abram, with refreshments available from 6pm and the service beginning at 6:30pm.

Edman’s tour will conclude with her public theology lecture at St Bride’s Liverpool on Monday 25th November. Provocatively titled ‘Scandal of a Queer God’, the lecture will ask the question: ‘was Jesus perfect or was he human?’ and uses, in Edman’s words: ‘queerness as an interpretative lens’.

Exploring how the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman disrupts an overemphasis on Jesus’ divinity, Edman will discuss how:

‘dismantling the lie of the “perfect Jesus” can help Christians be more accountable for what we say we believe, and bring a healthier understanding of our faith to bear on the religious and political turmoils that now engulf our world.’

The lecture will begin at 6pm with refreshments available from 5:30pm.

Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes said:

‘Jesus lived a life that was open to learning. So in Matthew 15:21-28 we see him learning from the Canaanite woman – that is, from one who was thought to be an outsider, treated as voiceless.

‘All voices need to be heard. All people, all groups of people, are made by God and have a lesson to teach and a right to be heard. And if we are to love all of the world God loves, then we need to listen to all of the world – to everyone’s experience. It is through listening that we receive wisdom – and as followers of the listening Jesus we believe that wisdom so often comes from those on the edge, from those ignored, from those often despised.

‘Among those ignored and despised today by the churches are, so often, members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Christians may disagree about the way to holiness, but we must surely agree about the need to listen and to love those on the margins.

‘For these reasons I encourage you to come to Queer Faith Voices, to hear some fine speakers headed by the inspirational Liz Edman, whom I met in New York and who gave gifts of kindness and theological wisdom to this wandering Brit. She is the author of Queer Virtue, a book that challenges Christians to learn the lessons that the queer community has to teach. This will be a stimulating evening and whatever your perspective I commend it to you.’

Tickets for ‘Queer Faith Voices’ are £5.98 and available at queerfaithvoices.eventbrite.co.uk. The ticket price includes a welcome drink and canapés; there is also a bar available for additional drinks. The other events are free to access and no booking is needed.

‘So what is a chaplain then?’ – Inspiration from St Martin

As the chaplain at YMCA Liverpool and YMCA St Helens, I am often asked this question by residents.

Stained glass window of St Martin of Tours, from St Martin’s Church, Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire.

I have found it helpful to share the story of St Martin, a fourth century bishop and former soldier, who gave us the origin of the words ‘chapel’ and ‘chaplain’, and whose life was an example of chaplaincy in action.

St Martin of Tours (316 – 397 AD), whose feast day is 11th November, is credited as the founder of Christian chaplaincy. A legend associated with him provides a direct source for understanding hospitality as it relates to chaplaincy today.

Unlike many early saints, about whom we know little , we know quite a bit about St Martin of Tours, thanks to a writer named Sulpicius, who devoted his life to following Martin, talking with those who were involved in his life, and writing a biography of him before the saint died.

Sulpicius recorded that Martin was a bishop in Gaul (modern-day France) who shunned the privileged status of that role to live in a monk’s cell in the wilderness. Before Martin became a Christian, at fifteen he was forced to join the army of the occupying Roman Empire.

One day Martin was on duty in Gaul when he noticed a beggar, freezing in the cold. Martin, moved with compassion, went to his aid. He took off his thick army cloak and cut it in two with his sword. One piece he wrapped around the beggar and the other he kept for himself.

This act echoes the ‘Golden Rule’ common to many spiritual traditions, which Jesus called one of the two greatest commandments: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’(Mark 12:29). I have written elsewhere about how this has become the basis of my understanding of chaplaincy for residentst and staff at the YMCA. This story reveals that it is at the heart of all chaplaincy everywhere.

That night Martin had a dream in which he saw the beggar with the piece of his cloak on his shoulders. But in his dream the beggar was Jesus. Sulpicius records that in Martin’s dream-vision, Jesus said to the angels, ‘Here is Martin, the Roman solider – he has clothed me.’ This recalls the parable of the sheep and goats from Matthew’s gospel: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40). So chaplains are called to honour each person as a beloved child of God, made in the image of God (though they may not know that for themselves), as if they were Jesus among us today.

This vision of Jesus as the beggar transformed Martin, convincing him to give his life in service to the poor and neglected in his society as a monk. Finally he was able to leave the army to take up his calling, becoming a fierce advocate for the powerless to whom injustices were easily done.

The people loved Martin and wanted him as their bishop, but Martin wanted to remain a monk and refused to take the office. So they tricked him by sending someone to beg Martin to come to visit his supposedly sick wife. When Martin arrived in the city, he was carried by the crowd into the church, where bishops had gathered to consecrate him. The bishops were repelled by this dirty, dishevelled man and thought his unkempt appearance proved him unfit for the office. But the people insisted – they hadn’t chosen Martin for his outward appearance, but for his compassion, humility and commitment to justice. Overwhelmed by the acclamations of the people, the bishops consecrated Martin as bishop of Tours.

Martin’s activism for the poor and love of people was matched by his commitment to solitude and prayer. He developed regional spiritual communities as places of hospitality for anyone, regardless of background, who sought direction or sanctuary. He instituted the practice, which continues today, of the bishop making pastoral visits to each of his communities at least once a year. This visitation was significant at a time when those in authority, who lived in the towns and cities, often neglected country people.

He lived simply and humbly, resisting status-seeking for himself. When he died, Martin was buried at his request in the cemetery for poor people. The Frankish Kings kept Martin’s half of the cloak he had shared with the beggar as a precious relic. The guardian of this cloak became known as the capellanus in Latin, derived from the word cappa, meaning a cloak or cape. Cappelanus came to the English language via Old French as ‘chaplain’. The place where the relic of Martin’s torn cloak became known as the capella, which is the origin of the word ‘chapel’. The values and example of St Martin began to provide a legacy for the work of chaplains since the inception of the early European universities.

St Martin of Tours, reputed as the founder of the vocation of Christian chaplaincy, is the chaplain’s prototype. He often travelled to the countryside, meeting ordinary people neglected by town officials. So chaplaincy today is also a fluid occupation, not confined to a desk and appointment schedule, but mobile, unobtrusively engaging with people in their everyday life, particularly those in need of support. Chaplaincy is defined by the same compassionate impulse as the incident of Martin with the beggar, and chaplaincy sees such acts as sacred.

The hospitality of St Martin changed the lives of the people he met. To sustain their transformed lives, he encouraged them to form communities of hospitality, in which Christians offered hospitality to each other as a context for hospitality to others.

That’s the understanding of chaplaincy I aim to live out today.

St Martin, pray for us whose ministry takes your life as a template for unconditional love of others. Amen

Adapted from various sources, particularly The Legend of St Martin of Tours, 316 – 397 CE, Patron Saint of France by Geoff Boyce.

Gone, never forgotten – Remembering with thanks on #WorldHomelessDay

As part of YMCA Liverpool’s commemoration of World Homeless Day 2019, residents and staff gathered to celebrate the opening of a new Memorial Garden at its headquarters, Hope House.

The YMCA Liverpool Memorial Garden plaque

As chaplain for this extraordinary community which offers supported accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, it was my privilege to dedicate the garden to the memory of YMCA members who are no longer with us.

The Hope House garden is a partnership project led by YMCA Liverpool service users. The garden is a reclaimed area of the car park at Hope House. This is a busy centre situated in the heart of Liverpool on a busy A-Road so outdoor space is at a premium.

Residents said that a garden would provide a space for them to enjoy the outdoors, which could also be used for workshops and activities. Following consultation with service users, YMCA Liverpool worked with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to bring the garden project to life. TCV is a voluntary group which supports a wide range of adult volunteers from all walks of life to transform green spaces, including people with learning disabilities and retired people. An expert horticulturist led the clearing and development of the site using hand tools, heritage methods and a conservation focus. TCV also involved YMCA Liverpool residents, so they have a real sense of ownership of the garden.

The garden will benefit all the residents of YMCA Liverpool at Hope House, which is 69 at any one time. More than 4 out of 5 residents at the time of the garden consultation took part. The garden team was made up 15 residents who actively took part in the upkeep of the garden. Six volunteers from TCV regularly gave their time to this project, totting up 180 volunteer hours to create the garden space.

The volunteers cleared the site, carried out necessary groundworks, built, installed and secured raised beds, installed natural shield plants such as willow to create screening, built and installed picnic benches, put in topsoil, installed small animal shelters, bug houses and bird houses, and worked to engage YMCA Hope House residents to become involved and retain enthusiasm for the garden project.

YMCA Liverpool residents decorated the raised beds in the memorial garden

YMCA Liverpool’s service user group designed a programme of activities for summer 2019, including:

  • Making hanging baskets;
  • Planting a sensory area and a food growing area;
  • Painting the fence;
  • An arts project to decorate the raised beds.

The Project Lead for YMCA Liverpool’s Dutch Farm horticulture project, Liz Sabatini, who coordinated the Hope House garden project, said:

‘The garden has created a fantastic space that the people we support are really enjoying. Hope House is right in the middle of town and the garden has provided some much needed green space, outdoor seating and the opportunity to grow organic food and learn new skills. Our volunteer days made a real impact and we now have a great garden for people to enjoy. There is now a Wednesday garden club who are taking care of the garden and continuing the transformation of this once-forgotten bit of our car park!’

Funding for the garden project came from a Finnis Scott Foundation grant of £4750, and an additional grant of £2000 through the Tesco Bags of Help scheme, where members of the public voted to support this scheme.

We also received a donation following a memorial service for a resident who died last winter. This led to the idea of dedicating the garden to the memory of members of our YMCA community who are gone but not forgotten.

Business Development Mamanger Nikki Melia and Dutch Farm Project Lead Liz Sabatini plant the rose bush at the centrepiece of the Memorial Garden

To celebrate the completion of the project, on Wednesday 9th October 2019 (the day before World Homeless Day), I led YMCA Liverpool residents and staff in a simple dedication of the garden, and installed a plaque which says:

Memorial Garden
In memory of YMCA members who lost their way
Gone, never forgotten
Opened on 9th October 2019 in YMCA’s 175th anniversary year

Chief Executive of YMCA Liverpool & Sefton, Ellie McNeil, cut the ribbon to formally open the garden space, and Director of Business Development for the YMCA Liverpool City Region, Nikki Melia, planted a rose bush to form the centrepiece of the Memorial Garden. Residents planted bulbs around the rose bush to fill the flower bed with new growth and colour.

The opening of the Hope House Memorial Garden was a happy occasion where we gave thanks:

  • For the beauty of creation and for this place of peace and refuge
  • For treasured memories of those who once journeyed with us
  • For the comfort of friends for who still surround us
  • For those who made this Memorial Garden possible

and dedicated the space as a reminder for all who rest there of the promise of hope and new life.

#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):

Find out more about:

First published on stbridesliverpool.org.uk

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