Tag Archives: LGBT

Corrections, Recollections and Decisions

There is something rather wierd about reading an e-mail that catches your eye in your spam box, clicking a link and hearing something of your own story being broadcast. It becomes slightly more strange when you realise that whilst the central narrative is correct the ending given is incorrect and time has moved forward.

So it was this morning when I clicked on a clicked on a Premier Radio update entitled Ignite: Inclusive Church and listened to this interview with Sarah Hagger Holt one of the authors of the Living it Out book, to which I contributed.Living it Out

During the interview I heard part of my story being told. It was wierd, it was all a long time ago now.It is nearly 3 years since the incident referred to….although I believe the housegroup meeting talked about will always remain imprinted upon my mind as it was one of the most significant and in some ways painful evenings of my life. Here is the post I made the day after my resignation of church membership was announced to the church and I felt I had to explain why I had made the decision I had. It was wierd listening to somebody else telling my story in the third person, yet the fact I could without emotion overwhelming me shows how time moves on and healing takes place.

In the interview the ending goes that I am still in the Baptist church where it happened, and this is where I feel I need to clarify a few details that got a bit mixed up in the interview.
Firstly: in the interview it says I had been in that Baptist church all my life. That’s not quite right. I had been in the Baptist denomination since the age of 10, becoming a member aged 14. In total I was in 3 Baptist churches. The one I grew up in and got married in. The one I worshipped in as a young adult and got Third Party dedicated in and was a member of until my late twenties. Then this final one which I was a part of for the eight years while I lived in Kent…..and which in many ways I will always view as a “home church”.

Secondly: I’m not actually a member of that church anymore. In 2008, as regular readers will know, I left that church to move to Durham. The ending of the story relating to the Baptist Church was that whilst I was not a member anymore, when I moved they gave me a substantial “love gift” towards my first years fees. It was called a “love gift” because that way they were emphasising that whilst they may not agree totally with all I say or do they love me and wanted to support me as I am. That “love gift” was unanimously voted upon by the church meeting, containing many people who knew my orientation.

On arriving in Durham I ended up in a Methodist Church….God being somebody who doesn’t hold onto denominational barriers or affiliations. Here there has been a different “coming out” process going on, one which has been different, but generally easier for various reasons, although the fear of “how will people react?” is still there sometimes, for me.

Moving on the final, current chapter, is I am having to consider the issues again. This time in light of what is appropriate for someone entering local preacher training and who may be exploring vocations working within the church in a lay capacity, or maybe at some point way down the track something else. For me this is a process which I am taking very slowly; it demands much soul searching as for me the key question throughout this journey has been, “am I acting with integrity and with respect towards those whose views differ from my own?”

Coming out and coming in

Back in July last year I put up this blog post which discussed my sexuality and ended with this paragraph:
“I know I hold a position which cannot be justified, and that the secular is sensible enough not to find virtuous therefore, I can’t discuss it with them. The effect of this means I walk around with “the wardrobe on my back”, as the poem says, because it is helping me balance on the fence. It is society’s negative views on evangelical Christianity, rather than society’s more positive, (or atleast indifferent), views on LGBT issues which keeps me with one foot in the closet, but also it is the dominant public messages within evangelical Christianity which keep me holding onto that wardrobe. Yet, through it all I know I am not carrying the wardrobe alone and that each time I feel that I have to deny who I am or ensure that discussion is avoided God who created me fully (and who has intended me to be exactly who I am – both queer and evangelical in a largely secular time and place) is there beside me, absorbing my pain.”

A year on and I find myself in a different place. Largely through the way God has worked and my faith journey has developed this year I am more comfortable with the juxstaposition between my views on sexuality and faith. I have been able to put the wardrobe down. This has meant I have recently got to the position where not only was I in the right place to be in a relationship but I was able to have an honest conversation with somebody very special about how I felt about them. The result of this I am now part of a couple.

This has implications, not least there is now a public coming out to those outside of the church I chose not to discuss my sexuality with because I was worried that it would give them more amunition against the faith I hold as the most important thing in life, and wish to give them every positive reason to engage with. This has raised some questions about why I couldn’t just be honest with them before…after all these are the people for whom it is definately not an issue. I have sought to explain the religion thing, but realise within this I am sending out a negative message about the church – which I don’t want to. I have realised that in my approach I was colluding with the lack of integrity that exists in our culture in many issues around faith and sexuality. I made a mistake, but one which I feel too many of us do.

In our attempts to have a missional focus we become over sensitive, just as in our position in ecclesiological debates we may also suffer from similar problems. Sensitivity is important and within this I do believe that there is a rightful place for discretion and sometimes silence. However, there is also a place for truth telling and for letting go of the fear. If we truly believe in the ability of the Spirit to work within people’s hearts and our own responsibility to be sensitive to the Spirit working within us we should not make value judgements about what we tell and don’t tell people because of the impression it may give of the church. That is not, to reiterate, pushing a total disclosure and spill your guts approach but it is saying we shouldn’t take approaches like the one I did.

For me, taking a trinitarian approach, mission stems from an understanding of the role of God: father, son and spirit in my life and in the life of the wider community, both worshipping and wider. This in turn means that the combined role of bible, tradition, reason, experience (Methodist quadrilatural for those of you into such things) is important for me. What I am increasingly aware of is the need to look at our interactions with others aswell as our own lives in relation to that quadrilateral.

The impact of taking this approach is something that I feel is very important and something to be thought through. Taking this approach involves a process of theological reflection. So as individuals, as well as worshipping communities, we need to be aware of how to reflect theologically and relate this to missional activity. This involves us in thinking about issues of faith and practice and how those are engaged in from an accademic, worshipping and social networking perspective.

Here in lies a problem, in our world of professionalised clergy and academics this activity which we all seek to engage in has been largely put into the field of career development for clergy or climbing the career ladder within the academy. I say this because I have, yet again, become aware of the way in which discussions are held between people of faith in social situations and the way the same issues are taken up within “professional study”.

This week I am extremely privilidged to be attending a conference which I am effectively gatecrashing. It is a linked to a qualification which is effectively a professional development qualification for clergy or theological educators. My supervisors suggested I attend because they knew I would find it useful and interesting. Everybody is being lovely and I am really enjoying it. The thing which has struck me most is the way that during the week we have been able to engage intelligently, (using reason), with practical theology (where we have been looking at data gathered as a result of reflecting upon peoples’ experience), but seeking to frame this within a faith based discussion where tradition and scripture have both been referred to during the week.

The types of issues that I have most often found myself discussing with networks of friends I have come to know, primarily, from interenet communities are being discussed within the academic setting. The discussions are almost identical in nature, except for the fact that this week they are involving a bunch of people who have been in a position to gain the evidence and have a greater voice in the discussion. They are the people whose work and discussions will inform the practice that the rest of us have to choose to (or not to) engage in.

Yet again I am wondering why the gap in these discussions exists. I am here largely because I have been extremely lucky and given the chance, to some extent, to ignore the boundaries which exist. The debates and discussions I am hearing though are ones which need the imput of all sides. They are issues which effect and would equally benefit from the critical imput of the layity aswell as professionals.

Greenbelt is great because it allows for some conversation to take place but what I am aware of is the need for smaller scale discussion to take place on a range of issues relating to missional and ecclesiastical issues. Similarly I am becoming increasingly convinced of the need to encourage more lay people to engage in practical theology. Churches are / should be missional centres where the people as a whole reflect on issues of ecclesiology and missiology and how these relate to our current cultures. At the moment I fear that what is happening amongst the layity and “professionals” is a split between “ordianary theology” and “professional theology” which is disenabling mission and is increasing the move to the “professionalisation” of church activity.

Linking this back to where I started, the issue about the expression of my faith and sexuality related to the interplay between missiology and ecclesiology. I cared about how those outside the church would view the practices and beliefs of the church and how this would or wouldn’t point them towards Jesus. Missiology and ecclesiology were important issues for me as a lay person, and not just things for the “professionals”. Similarly in the research I am currently doing, that stems out of my desire to scream out about the need for the church to take mission to single parents seriously and to invest some time and money in the research necessary to underpin good mission initiatives to people who happen to be single parents.

Anyway rant and thinking out loud over.

Breaking out of the Bubble

This year at Greenbelt there were a few things that happened which made me smile about how much I have moved on from the evangelical bubble and also about how some of that still comes into my mind as “natural thinking”.

One of the things that had me thinking about this the subject of mission. The situation was I had just finished my stint on the OuterSpace stall and went wandering to find the relatives who were exploring the resources centre whilst they waited for me. They were at a stall where one of them, an agnostic, was finding out about mission opportunities. Being me I engaged confused mouth before brain and blurted out, “but don’t you have to be a Christian to go on mission?”. Both relative and stall holder decided to answer the question. Relative said that as long as agencies weren’t trying to sell God and were going out to do some good then they were interested in what they were doing. The bloke from the “missionary organisation” explained how whilst they are a faith based organisation they are happy to have involvement from non-believers and those of other faiths. Made me realise that these days in many ways mission, particularly short term mission, means something v. different to what I would automatically think. My evo influenced mind still sees it in many senses through the mid 20th century paradigm which is only….if we’re honest….a few steps away from the colonial model of the 19th century. In reality we now live in a secular world where missionary orgs are essentially just another set of NGO’s, but with an explanation for why they are engaging in this work.

The second thing which got me reflecting on the bubble and how far I had or hadn’t come from the evo bubble was thinking about my experiences of worship at GB this year. I actually ended up in a wider range of worship situations than usual, and several of them had a clear mainstream Anglican litergical influence. This year this didn’t seem like some exotic excursion rather it was like, ok this is what these guys are doing that’s cool. There wasn’t the same sense of relief and yet fear of “soundness” I had had in past years when going to stuff that was “different”. This year I was able to relate it to my ordinary experiences of worship much more and so appreciate it more for what it was. Admittedly the Ikon stuff did challenge because of the way they very quietly punched you in the face with some stuff about what faith does and should mean. The rest of the time I was pretty much just worshipping.

The third thing that struck me was about how those outside church experience us and what we have to offer. I admit I, in a tongue in cheek way, figured that taking my ickle bro to GB might help “convert him”. Um, I was the one who the joke ended up being on. I saw whilst I see GB as another way to encounter Christianity it is much more than that. What impressed my bro was the way that GB was based around anarchism and was engaging loads of people under the age of 50 in activism. Now, I’m not sure about the level of anarchism he could apparently see, but I am aware of the activist element. As someone who sees that type of social justice emphasis as “normal” I didn’t realise the appeal it has to others. He didn’t engage in the way I would have “hoped” as an ickle evo, but he did experience and appreciate a range of things that GB had to offer. He understood the meaning of Tomlinson’s church without boundaries in a way I couldn’t.

The final thing that got me was the way that GB was rationally talking about issues of sexuality in a way which has gotten past alot of the nonsense. Yes there had been a ridiculous amount of nonsense about Gene Robinson coming to the festival, and apparently division about it, according to Christian Today, (although as Richard Hall says this article is slightly questionable if you were there). They have moved on from going on about the rights and wrongs in many ways and into looking at the practical implications of engaging with spirituality in a faithful way whatever your sexuality. That is not to say they don’t recognise the realities of life today for some gay Christians, rather it is to say that they are reflecting the situation that for many of us in our churches it is kind of a non-issue much of the time, in terms of it is not our sexual orientation that is the issue but rather how we all approach relationships and live our lives generally which matters whatever our orientation. This is a subtle change which I became aware of over the weekend as I thought about it. One of the things that reflected this was the OuterSpace programme this year. Rather than just focusing on the politics they were looking at the practicalities of life for LGBT people. They had Jeff Heskins talking about the practical issues involved in civil partnership blessings and in trying to keep integrity if you happened to be LGBT and going through the discernment process, (mainly related to the CofE). Whilst it is interesting that The Changing Attitude Blog uses the language of politics and rights in relation to these sessions what I liked in the OuterSpace session I attended was the way the discussion was about the practicalities rather than the shouting. Similarly their Sunday night worship session was focused on honestly and simply bringing our lives as Christians, (some of whom happen to be LGBT), to God in worship rather than being an attempt to do inclusive worship. Can’t quite explain but I really witnessed a subtle but encouraging change this year. Also for reasons I’m not going into I realised that, at GB and in many other places, your sexuality makes absolutely no difference to anything…the world has moved on and so, I think, has more of the church than we might realise if we only believe the media headlines.

Finally, on the sexuality thing, what I liked about Gene Robinsons session was the way he didn’t seek to points score, rather he sought to point to people back to God and to love for the bible. Also totally unrelated he was v. lovely when faced with a bunch of slightly mad Durham (& ex Durham) students and a camera at his book signing.

Think that in another post The Changing Attitude Blog summed it up totally in their post “On Being Unremarkable“. Personally I am discovering that in the evo bubble people would like us to think there is something different or remarkable about being x, y or z….in reality all of it is far more unremarkable and simply ordinary than we would like to admit. We often talk about wanting to find God in the ordinary, well perhaps the secret is first for us to appreciate what the ordinary is.

(mis)Adventures in Scotland pt 3**warning adult content**

Wednesday afternoon was spent mainly at the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art). I had particularly gone to look at the infamous sh(out) exhibition. JTL has already blogged about her visit, and I would encourage you to read her excellent reflection aswell as my perspective on it.

Before reaching “that exhibition” I explored the lower floors, encountering first “Echo and Transend“, a collection of abstract art. More beautiful to me than any of the actual art on this floor, even John Houston’s “October Sunset” is the view you get of the backdoor of Boarders, as you walk into the main part of the gallery. Framed between two mock Roman pillars is a thick backdoor with the Boarders sign acting as a header above it. In the glass window above the door hangs a large, circular, Starbucks sign. It is an absolutely beautiful picture representing late modernity.

Anyway, enough of me getting lost in the beauty of contemporary consumer culture and back to the official art. Balcony one contained Rendering Gender, works by David Sherry with Transforming Arts. This was a collection of stuff by a transgender group, exploring their experiences. Three pieces on this floor caught my imagination. The first one was a picture in a set of four images by Sara Griffin. It contained a body wrapped in bandages and strapped to a table in a 1950’s B movie type lab. Superimposed in a kind of pink neon were the words “OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING I’M A GATE KEEPER”. I considered how many things this could be a metaphor for. For a moment looking at it I found my mind focused on my forthcoming trip to Greenbelt and encounters with the “emerging church” & with a slight shudder I wondered. The other two pieces on this floor which caught my attention were both by Kristi Taylor, one film and one text. Totally unrelated to the main exhbition on this floor is a film area showing work by local and international artists. On the day I went it was showing Gobstopper by Roderick Buchanan which was a rather strange piece showing a series of kids in the back of a vehicle holding their breath and being quiet as they went through a tunnel.

Then onwards and upwards to the controversy. I entered “Made in Gods Image“, which is a collection of work created by LGBTI people from different faith communities. Anthony Schrag and David Malone have worked with members of MCC, Quest, Al-Jannah aswell as individuals from a variety of faiths, beliefs and religions (according to the blurb).

To be honest I thought some of it was a bit kak. The photographic stills by MCC were meant to be ironic in terms of reflecting same sex relationships. I just found them ironic for reflecting the nature of Christian am-dram in churches. I did like the Islamic Text in “Two Poems” by annonymous, they were beautifully presented. Also as JTL said in her post the pictures of the life of an ordinary Muslim gay guy were very moving. The MCC did do a think which had within a set of very uninspiring photographs a shot of text saying, “Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light”. If anybody ever sees this on a postcard I would pay v.g. money for a copy.

The Patriots Room by Ian Hamilton Finlay was an interesting take on the whole thing, being influenced by the French Revolution. With heads in baskets on one side and a very basic bedsit room with subversive needlework on the other.

Before returning to talk about Roxanne Claxton’s exhibit, the one which has caused outrage, I will briefly review the rest of Sh(out). The main space on the upper floor had a mixture of art from different mediums. some of it was outrageous and deliberately provocative. I found some of the photography unneccesary and the plastic tree was symbolic of exactly why people mock modern art. Yet arguably the most erotic image in the exhibition I felt was absolutely beautiful. There was a water colour, which you should not open the link of if you are easily offended, “Untitled #115” by Patricia Cronin. It was of two womens hands entering each other as they made love. The way the picture just shows the hands and the crotch area and the delicate colours make it truly beautiful. The fact the genitalia are hidden by the hands means whilst explicit the picture shows the beauty of intimacy. The other picture I appreciated was “The Actresses” by Sadie Lee. It depicts two elderly women in white industrial style underwear on a bed. One is tenderly holding the other, who has her back to her. Whether it is the fact paintings are not as stark as photography or the fact these two pictures reflect intimacy as opposed to raw sex, without relationship, I don’t know but they were beautiful in a way the others weren’t. They were almost out of place amongst the other exhibits.

Then I went back to look at Roxanne Claxton’s work. When I walked into the alcove containing the installation I saw the desecrated bible and felt revulsion. I felt hurt, which I didn’t expect. Then I saw the bible in the box which now has sheets of reflective responses within it on the opposite page to biblical text. Finally I looked at the video of her eating bits of the bible and stuffing them down her top and trousers. I felt very uncomfortable. Then I picked up the headphones and began to listen to the interview she was giving alongside. This was not just an interview, it was a moving testimony. She spoke of wanting to show that the bible is nourishment not something to choke on. I think that if this had been on loudspeaker rather than through one set of headphones some of the reaction to the piece may have been different. Yet the fact remains the images are disturbing and somehow inappropriate.

This is I think my overall feeling about the exhibition; many of the images are provocative and almost confrontational. Yet when you listen, as you can only with headphones to some of the stories accompanying a number of the exhibits, the story and the exhibition alters. This should be, much more clearly, an audio visual exhibition. It would still be uncomfortable but it would be much less confrontational. I know some think the shock factor, the ability to elicit a strong reaction, is what makes good art but…..

My own feelings, as I sat reflecting over a toasted muffin, pot of tea and fix of Rene Mackintosh in Willow Tea Rooms, were mixed. As a queer Christian I have found wholeness and healing through the bible. I have found this through looking at the bible as a whole rather than pulling it apart, as those who would seek to dehumanise me in their pursuit of truth do. It is looking at the whole story of creation and salvation which has healed the pain and enabled me to see myself as a loved child of God, created in his image with my sins atoned blood he chose to shed for all of us. The pain healed has included the injuries to my self-image inflicted by those who focus on certain individual verses. I don’t want the bible pulled apart to nourish, I want it complete to enjoy and celebrate aswell as feed me.

After all the deep art and culture stuff it was good to go and just chill out for the evening with a bunch of the most amazing people I know, and some new friends, at a lovely place called Ad Lib.

Greenbelt – Caught in the Storm

It appears that Greenbelt and CMS are the latest organisations to be caught up in the storm which is engulfing the Anglican church at the moment. This article in Ekklesia alerted me to the way that CMS are the latest organisation to be caught in the current Anglican storm which appears to have blown the fence away.

The blog post on the Anglican Mainstream site which caused all this to blow up was “Greenbelt, “Gay evangelicalism” and CMS: Summer 2009″ by L S Nolland. Besides outlining the different ways in which Greenbelt has become a queer friendly Christian festival and highlighting those on the speaking line up this year it regards as heretics it specifically questions CMS’s involvement in the festival. CMS in turn have replied with this statement which outlines their position as an evangelical organisation which is are “associates” of the event and therefore not involved in planning decisions, beyond their own venue in the marketplace.

Whilst not wishing to get embroiled in the politics within a denomination of which I am not a part as this ickle part of the debate relates to a festival close to my heart I am going to give my own opinion on this one.

The Anglican Mainstream writer appears to have two issues regarding Greenbelt, (i) CMS involvement and (ii) the fact that the Greenbelt programme is not balanced out by speakers from the ex/post gay movement.

With regards to CMS involvement, they are one of several explicitly evangelical organisations who seek to engage with people at Greenbelt, within the marketplace. A large part of what CMS has done over recent years has been, particularly through the emerging church stuff it has been involved in, is to help keep connection with and give a positive picture of established Christianity to church leavers aswell as seekers. Due to it’s focus on being an arts festival, rather than a “Christian conference” type thing, it becomes a space for many people who feel alienated by established church and the politics within them. It has also been a place where Christians who might have been cynical about the word “mission” have been encouraged to think again about mission in the contemporary society and how to engage in it with sensitivity and authenticity.

In terms of the 2nd point made by the AM writer I want to share my own opinion on this, not just as a regular Greenbelter but as a queer Christian who is not Anglican but does care about the whole church.

Over the years Greenbelt has been somewhere where LGBT Christians have been welcome in someway. It has also been somewhere where their views have been challenged. In the past there have been events where debate of the type described has occurred, I remember Elaine Storkey defending the traditional biblical position and promoting the True Freedom Trust at one point. Over recent years the LGBT presence at Greenbelt has changed. Rather than just being a fringe meeting of Safety Net in a back room, if you could find it, there have been more openly LGBT speakers and performers and their straight friends on the main programme. In recent years significant contributors have included James Alison and Peterson Toscano. The fringe type meetings still occur, now hosted by Outer Space , operating as a place for LGBT Christians and others to network. This does not mean that Greenbelt has become a pink festival or has begun to consciously descriminate against those who hold alternative views but it does mean that Greenbelt has become a clearly safe space for LGBT and most importantly questioning Christians. It has become a space where the carefully rehersed arguments given by both sides have been swapped for people sitting down sharing stories and worship. It is a place where articulate speakers have been able to express to those who may be unsure of what to think what the position of ordinary LGBT Christians is.

In my own experience Greenbelt is where my own coming out journey really started. In the days when I was trying to work out about how to handle my sexuality, and had questions I wanted to ask about how it related to my faith going to Greenbelt and slipping off to Safetynet was my first step forward. I will never forget slipping in and thankfully seeing one face I knew via mutual friends and then sharing communion with people like me….people who were wrestling with what it meant to be gay and a follower of Jesus. It was the first time I think that I realised I might be able to be all that I am.

Moving forward to a couple of years ago I remember what it felt like not having to slip off but sitting with a friend I had recently come out to, whose views I knew followed the more traditional line, in a performance by Peterson. Through his drama he explained far more about it all than I could in awkward words.

Then there was the time I sat with a group of people from my church listening to John Bell talking on the subject of human sexuality. There was a view given that I knew you wouldn’t get from the pulpit back home, but we were all able to sit together listening. It meant alot to know my straight friends were considering all the issues involved, even if they didn’t come to the same conclusions as me. This is something which couldn’t / wouldn’t have happened at any other Christian conference / festival.

So has all this meant that Greenbelt has, as is argued, become discrimatory against those who hold alternative views? I don’t think so…what it has meant is that Greenbelt has become somewhere that stories are told rather than arguments and debates held on these issues. Should the stories of those who have positive stories of the ex-gay movement be told? It’s difficult, having heard from far too many people about what the effects of the ex / post gay movement on their lives have been I would worry that vunerable, young, questioning Christians might get sucked into well meaning movements that would actually cause them more harm than good. It might also stop Greenbelt being a safe space.

So where do we go? Well, I would argue that perhaps rather than the ex / post gay movement there might be speakers – space given to those taking a side B approach. For those not aware side B is the position which advocates celibacy for gay Christians. Perhaps there should be a storytelling session with a variety of Christians, taking the different positions, could just tell their stories. No debate or questions….just a storytelling session and then a cake and coffee session afterwards if people wanted to chat on a more informal basis.

As for the decision for Gene Robinson to be invited to speak at Greenbelt this year….well, he is a good speaker. This is the post I wrote after hearing him in Kent last summer. However, I am not convinced by the timing. Had the FCA not just been formed and the American decision not be taken, that Tom Wright has written about in the Times today, it would have been wonderful. As it is it seems that Greenbelt are finding themselves embroiled in more politics than they need to be and rather than supporting the moves that have been going on in recent years this may actually end up meaning that Greenbelt becomes either (i) a ghetto for those who are affirming or (ii) somewhere where the aftermath means that the programming reverts back to where it was back about ten years ago. Perhaps they should have spent the money on a few less high profile LGBT speakers….like getting Peterson back to do his Transfigurations show.

Anyway it appears that my thoughts on this are a bit behind the times….Dave Walker has already talked about this on the Church Times blog site and Auntie Doris was talking about this on Monday.

However, in terms of why it is important for Greenbelt to carry on having LGBT people as part of the main programme I finish with this You Tube clip related to Through My Eyes, the GCN DVD I mentioned a couple of days ago. On the site for this DVD it says “The church is at war over homosexuality. Will our youth be the casualties?” This is the question that I think those on all sides of this debate have to ask themselves.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBMbNSyqwkA[/youtube]

Retreating – GCN style

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].