IDAHOTB Address At St Anne’s Union Shandon for Cork LGBTI+ Awareness Week

On Sunday I had the pleasure of giving the address at the Annual IDAHOT Service in St Anne’s Union for Cork LGBTI+ Awareness Week. Choral Con Fusion provided the wonderful Music for the service which was also attended by Bishop Paul Colton.

Below is the text of my address.

International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
Solidarity for Alliances
St Anne’s Shandon, 13th May 2018
Stephen Spillane

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one” – John 17: 15

Four years ago, was the last time I spoke in this place for International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and a lot of things have changed since then. We have a new Priest in Charge here in Shandon, the choir is bigger, and we voted to change our constitution to allow for Marriage Equality. But is everything perfect? Far from it.

In the last week, someone was attacked in Northern Ireland for being part of the LGBTI+ Community. We still have Homophobic, Transphobic and Biphobic bullying in our schools, churches, workplaces and in the homes of LGBTI+ people. This is why we are here. To stand together. We stand together to protect each other in solidarity.

In the words of this morning’s Psalm

 

They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper – Psalm 1:3

Being in solidarity with LGBTI+ people does not take a huge commitment, it is recognising them for being who they are part of our community, at school, at work, in our church and part of our families. Being an ally means help to create a space that is welcoming to everyone, so that they can be themselves, truly and honestly.

This is something we take seriously in St Anne’s and this is set out in our Vision statement which is at the back of the church

We are welcoming of both human experience and
human diversity.

 It goes on to say

We are committed to taking all people seriously –
married and single people, gay and straight, those who have a natural faith and those who struggle with belief.

Welcoming is so important to us all; to feel welcome in a place, no matter where it changes our experience of that place. A welcome means that we can truly invest all ourselves, our true selves in a place and not hide any of it. A welcoming place can make all the difference to someone, whether it is to share good news and good times or receive help and support in times of difficulty. It allows people to share their interests and talents fully, while in return experiencing love and support.

At the beginning of the service we heard a simple line of scripture that reminds us that we have a great ally

God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them – 1 John 4:16

Love is the greatest way of showing Solidarity. If we love others we can help them in the difficult times and celebrate with them in good times. Love reminds us that others are standing with us. Love allows us to stand with others. Love allows us to work together to bring strength, healing and peace to one another.

Love isn’t anything extravagant, it’s recognising people for being who they are. Love recognises the situations people find themselves in and where we find ourselves as a community. Two recent events here reminded me of how the simple things can mean a lot.

At our General Easter Vestry, basically the Parish AGM, we had to make a decision whether or not couples could both serve on our Select Vestry, we decided they could. We then elected a same-sex couple onto our Vestry. It was completely normal. It was only afterwards when someone said it to me that I realised it!

The second is a bit more personal. On Easter Sunday, I brought along my boyfriend to church for the first time, he will kill me later for this, it was wonderful to see people both before and after the service coming up to him to say ‘hi’ and welcome him here. It made my day, and I know it made an impact on him too to feel the welcome and the love in this place.

This is a welcome and a love that we are called to practice and replicate throughout our lives, in our communities, our schools, our churches, our workplaces and in our homes. It is one that I am thankful to have experienced in this church and others, this choir, this city and at work.

But in recognising this welcome and love I also recognise that others do not receive it. But standing together in Solidarity and through building Alliances we can spread that welcome and that Love and ensure that everyone experiences that welcome and love. It isn’t an easy challenge. We will come up against many challenges, roadblocks and doubts but we must remain “like trees planted by streams of water” and try and create a world free from Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia as well as all other forms of hatred and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religious belief or lack of religious belief.

We are put on this earth to live and to love. Let us do that together and continue to be in solidarity with those seen as ‘others’. I will finish with this prayer from the IONA Community

God of justice, keep us silent
when the only words we have to utter
are ones of judgement, exclusion or prejudice.
Teach us to face the wounds in our own hearts

GOD OF JUSTICE, GIVE US POWER OF SPEECH
TO RESIST INJUSTICE, OPPRESSION AND HATE,
NOT ONLY ON OUR OWN BEHALF
BUT FOR OTHERS WHO ARE NOT HEARD.
MAKE US PEACEMAKERS AND RESTORERS OF THE STREETS.

God of power, keep us silent
so that we may listen respectfully
to another person’s pain
without trying to fade or fix it,
for you are present within each one of us

GOD OF POWER, GIVE US COURAGE
TO SHARE OUR GIFTS OF SPEECH
TO COMFORT, UPHOLD AND STRENGTHEN.
LET US BE A GLIMPSE OF YOUR LOVE TO THOSE IN NEED.

God of love, in the silence of our hearts
give us words of welcome, acceptance and renewal
so that when we speak
our words come from you

GOD OF LOVE, GIVE US VOICES OF PRAISE
TO CELEBRATE EACH OTHER
AND THE GLORIES OF CREATION
BELIEVING THAT WE ALL LIVE WITHIN YOUR BLESSING.

 Prayer for Three Voices, Yvonne Morland, 50 Great Prayers from the Iona Community

No Longer Standing on the Sidelines

The Chapel Street in Cork with The Church of S...
The Chapel Street in Cork with The Church of St Anne in Shandon Tower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of you have been aware that I was blogging about the General Synod of the Church of Ireland (which ended yesterday) and the Motion on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief over on Spirituality Ireland (Here, here, here and here). The motion was passed 243 votes to 87 votes after one of the longest debates in many years at General Synod. The vote broke down by house as:

  • Clergy 81-53 in favour
  • Laity 154-60 in favour
  • Bishops 10-2 in favour

The fact that this motion passed saddened me greatly and prompted a bit of soul searching and questioning of faith. Some people have suggested that I leave the church, and I am not the only one has thought about that. But I cannot do that. The Church has been there for me in times of crisis, and now is a time when the Church needs to people to speak up. To demand an Inclusive Church.

This morning I attended the International Day Against Homophobia Service in St Anne’s Shandon. This is a regular event in Cork and is always a lovely service. Today it held more meaning for me. When the Rev’d Brian O’Rourke began the Service, he apologised for the Motion being passed. He spoke against and revealed it had caused him to question his ministry.

The Service was wonderful and uplifting and today’s Gospel (which wasn’t especially picked, it is today’s reading) was the perfect one.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’

–  Gospel according to John, Chapter 15

If we want an inclusive Church we need to take this to heart. We are very lucky in Cork to have Parishes like St Anne’s Union, St Fin Barre’s Union, Kilmocogue Union, Chapel of Christ the Healer at Cork University Hospital and Kinneigh Union among others which are Inclusive Churches. We are also lucky with our Bishop, Dean and many Clergy who want the Church of Ireland to be inclusive.

For this to happen, I belive, I can no longer stand on the sidelines of my faith. I must be involved in the Church and my Parish to ensure that is and remains a welcoming and inclusive church for all.