So, I didn’t blog yesterday because I was rather busy, not busy leading services, because I am still not at work, what I did however was lead a blessing for two amazing friends of mine.( For those that want to argue that I was working, this was arranged over a year ago, so I drew together all of my energy so as not to let them down.)
They had called it a big gay blessing, and thought it might be queerer than Brighton Pride! It was certainly a day filled with rainbows, joy and love. These two women have very different coming out stories, as so many of us do, and have found a real deep and committed love together, if shone from them and blessed all who were present, and those who joined in via livestream.
I felt so privileged to be a part of their journey, to be able to bless, pray and speak not only the couple, but apparently others present. In some senses if has reaffirmed my sense of calling after months of self doubt and questioning, maybe I needed to lead a big gay blessing!
I was blessed because I was able to be completely myself in a place where nobody condemned or questioned that, over the last few years for me coming out has brought many challenges, people seemed content with me as a divorcee, and my five children have always been a good cover story, not that I was constructing a cover story, being myself was something I both knew and didn’t know, and that is probably something that only makes sense to anyone who has been on a similar journey. People who come out never do so only once, every new situation needs assessing, is it safe to be me here? Is a question that comes up over and over again, just when you think that you have been really outspoken and brave something or someone comes along and you have to begin all over again, even in the most affirming of places.
When asked how it took me so long I can only say that life happened, and while rural Essex was not a particularly affirming space in the late 70’s, life happened, I was married for over 30 years, and at the beginning of that time, part of a church ( not Methodist) where not only was the thought of women in ministry questioned by some, but being LGBTQI, was a sin, even recent conversations with friends there make me uncomfortable enough not to be open with them, some know, others choose not to know.
These days, I can celebrate being a minister in a denomination where the celebration of same sex marriages is permissible, some churches and ministers have welcomed this and are looking forward to the joy of celebrating those marriages, others feel the opposite, and some are undecided. It can still be like treading on eggshells. When I have been asked where I stand I am honest and open, but have still met with comments like ” well it’s not really a wedding is it” or of course “it’s not proper marriage”, to which I have two answers, yes it is, and yes it is!
So, yesterday was wonderful, a huge celebration with people who had gathered to celebrate, but the journey of this couple has not been easy, they have faced criticism, rejection and more, they found me through a mutual friend as they wanted a blessing and to make promises before God, it was a blessing because their marriage took place last year, but to all intents and purposes yesterday was a celebration of that at last, open and wonderful, people had travelled miles to be there and to celebrate, and I mean miles! There was something very special about it, as there is with every wedding and blessing, with an added level of we can be open at last! And, long may it last.
Why do I say long may it last, well quite simply because criticism and persecution hasn’t gone away, younger generations are much more open and affirming, but a backlash can come unexpectedly from what is seemingly nowhere. So blessing and affirming, welcoming and celebrating are so necessary. The passages chosen for yesterday were challenging, they were: Hebrews 12: 1-3 and Romans 12: 1-18, we’d talked about the choice of these and they certainly weren’t my suggestion, but were special to the couple. Both passages talked about sin, and it gave me the opportunity to define sin, and anything that separates us from the love of God, and that sometimes being sinned against can have that effect, we feel separate because we are condemned by those who should include rather than exclude. I was also able to apologise for the churches terrible treatment of the LGBTQI community and say something about power. I wasn’t a long message, but it clearly had an impact from all of the wonderful conversations I had after the blessing. One man said I’ve just texted my friends what you said, I can’t believe you said it, thank you.
I didn’t need thanks, it was so good to be able to speak so freely! I will finish with the final blessing of the day, after the amazing, WE WILL, had erupted from all gathered to support them.
The love of God bind you together with cords that cannot be broken.
The love of God nurture you as you learn to love each other more and more.
The love of God challenge you to become people who live fully in love.
The love of God watch over you and protect you from all that is evil.
The love of God bless you as you journey on together, now and in all eternity.
The God whose Spirit fills our hearts with love, joy and peace, be with you, those you love, and those you pray for, this day and forever; and the blessing of God almighty, the Creator, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you all. Amen.