Despite all that divides us, it’s you love that unites us, love expressed as and through grace unbinds us and is a powerful thing.
Despite all that divides us, we can be united in and by love, these thoughts are shared by my colleague and friend James Morley through a piece of original music that he composed and performed and offers for use as a prayerful addition to the God in love unites us conversations that the Methodist Church in the UK is undertaking across the country. Like anyone offering a piece of art, be that music, poetry, or a picture/ sculpture, in doing so he made himself vulnerable. In these conversations we are all going to have to own levels of vulnerability as we discuss what it is to be our God created selves, brining into the light how and who we are.
Sadly his work was criticised in an unhelpful way, as an artist myself I can say that there is a huge difference between helpful and unhelpful criticism, and also that while I appreciate that everyone has different tastes, being rude is simply unhelpful, and not in the spirit of our conversations or conferring.
I know of people, friends and acquaintances who have had a rough time during the conversations , and that hurts have been expressed and acknowledged. I walked out of our training event when the word issue came up over and over again. I did walk back in having taken a deep breath and explain why being named an issue was hugely unhelpful for me. The church has an issue, it’s members are not issues!
We must remember that in all of our offerings we bring our deepest selves, artists, poets, musicians, our straight or queer selves (LGBTQI+ selves) with all nuances in-between. I know that the focus of the whole need for conferring has probably unhelpfully become focused on the questions around Same Sex Marriage, forgetting that there are many other strands to the paper, not least singleness and divorce which can for many also carry huge levels of stigma even today!
As we enter into these conversations we have been told, over and over again that we need to keep and make people safe, that safeguarding must be a concern, how we treat one another is paramount, and that the choice to act in love must win over any need to prove that we are right. If we are to walk as Christ walked then we know this, he broke down barriers, pushed aside conventions, and reached out again and again in love to those who thought that they were unlovable.
Now he will probably not thank me for this, but I want people to know how much easier it was for me to come out to my family, colleagues and congregations because of the friendship and support given to me by James, and others, but he has been at the receiving end of my angst, and dare I questions more than once, particularly as I asked if the letter to my colleagues was okay, he was offering love that allowed me to unbind myself.
Now I like his music, I am not going to make any apologies for that, and I have said at times that on many occasions, (and that is not simply because he gets and likes my art work… ), but if I didn’t I wouldn’t be rude about it, because nobody is being forced to listen to it. Surely that is what this journey is all about, the Methodist Church in the UK has celebrated and affirmed the ministry of LGBTQI+ people for 25 years, that seems to be a surprise to many of our folk who believe that these conversations are new. So folks I guess what I am saying is let’s dare to be those who set a loving example to those around us. Let’s be those of whom others say, see how they love one another, be those who unbind one another, gently and carefully and prayerfully, as we walk into the light like Lazarus emerging from the tomb, when Jesus called his stunned friends to unbind him…
We need one another, we all bring different gifts and graces, different offerings, some of which will be helpful for others and some not, but above all let’s walk in love, despite all that divides us, it’s love that unites us!
Here is a link to James’ music, I will be using it as a prayerful offering during the conversations I will be facilitating here in Sheffield.