This weekend saw me heading off to Devon for the GCN Europe retreat. The theme of the weekend was “We are Family”. This theme meant that about 30 ecumenically and ethnically mixed LGBT Christians (and straight friends) explored what it meant to be family as Christians, using a variety of different methods and styles.
Having somewhat mistakenly volunteered I led the session on Saturday morning about what being God’s children meant. When I say mistakenly what I mean is I didn’t volunteer by mistake but I had misunderstood what I was volunteering for. Initially they just asked for people willing to run sessions and so I said yup, I’d do one….thinking it was like stuff I’d been to before where the sessions were workshops which would run together. So I volunteered thinking I was going to say when asked what our sessions were going be about…”I do one on using modern technologies in prayer”. I was also thinking this would be about an hour maximum and have about 15 people absolute maximum attending, probably about 5.
It was only when it was too late to back out without causing problems I realised what I had actually volunteered for was quite different. Turned out to be a session of about 2 hours based around 1 John looking at the theme of family. Now this was where I went for what it means to be God’s children on the basis of it sounded easier than some of the other stuff….um, yeagh, right.
Anyway, I prayed…and paniced….and prayed some more and managed to put it together. End result was a session to these 30 people which involved a reflective reading of 1 John 2 vs 28 – 3 vs 4, a bit of a talk on the text, a discussion, giving out some stickers to remind people of the fact God loves them, a bit of storytime and some appropriate songs mixed in. Only major mistake came with a bit of language I used where I forgot about the painful meanings of words when they have been used within psycho-babble.I just used a word in a more general way that I would as a parent but was later reminded for some people it is a painful term…still I was able to explain to people the use I’d intended and apologise for anyone who had found the term hurtful ….so all in all I survived it and even, if I might say so, think it went ok. I also quite enjoyed the experience in the end.
Beyond my bit I both and enjoyed and was challenged by other people’s sessions. My favourite involved making sculptures out of our personal possessions….although in some ways this was also the most personally challenging session to me.
Worship wise it was all a bit old skool, but that was cool. Only truly cringe worthy moment was when after a wonderful meal and some rather good wine we found ourselves singing “If I Were A Butterfly”. Turned out a quarter of a century + after learning it I still knew the actions. Took me until the third verse and a whole new millenium PC panic about the issues surrounding “If I were a fuzzy bear I’d thank you Lord for my fuzzy wuzzy hair” to wake up to the fact I am no longer either an ickle person or a over-enthusiastic evangelical. Just so glad it didn’t make it into any pictures.
During the weekend we got to watch Through My Eyes which is really moving and is a film I’d highly recommend to anybody who wants to know what it is like to be young, gay and Christian. It’s UScentric, also hits on some issues which some LGBT Christian youth find over here aswell. Best explanation of young people and coming out I have seen.
On Sunday morning I found myself in the most beautiful abbey, whose retreat house we were staying in, enjoying mass. Interesting to me that Catholic worship didn’t actually seem much different to any other liturgical tradition & was far less “high” than the Anglo-Catholic service I encountered recently. Only bit about it I didn’t like was not being able to share in the sacrament and having to be blessed instead. Being told one’s baptism is not of equal status is hard….and meant I couldn’t bring myself to say in the creed “we believe in one church”. I do believe it but I was not feeling it at that point. To be honest part of me wanted to just go up and take communion, but I realised this would be disrespectful to my Catholic and Orthodox friends and to the community whose facilities we were using and so didn’t.
On a more positive note it was just brilliant to be hanging out with a bunch of wonderful people. Some of them were friends I was catching up with and others I just got to know this weekend. As often said before I love it when virtual and real world come together like that.
Funniest thing seen all weekend was this You Tube clip [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mws778-yrak[/youtube].