Inclusive Church at Weston Pride
We spent the day at Weston Pride. It was the second time there had been a Weston pride, and the first time there’d been a chaplaincy of any kind we were not entirely sure what to expect. “We” were half a dozen who hung around on and off for most of the day, chatting and being visible. It was a plan that seemed to work well. The warm welcome we received from all at Pride was a great start to the day. Arms were opened wide, smiles and love was all around!
To be frank, we were a little worried that out presence might be seen as confrontational by some. For so many the church is seen as promoting exclusion and not inclusion. That’s not our message, of course, but sometimes the inclusive message can be lost amid the cacophony of difference. How wrong we were. How wonderful the day was, and how much we want to do it again!
We were given a space to hang around in that was en route to the toilets. Across the whole day it was fascinating how many people wandered past to the loo, then afterwards came back and stopped to chat.
And the conversations we had... How sad, how poignant, how fulfilling, and how profound. For some it was just to say how encouraging it was to see a church presence. For some it was a stronger amazement that the church had turned up. For others it was a bit confusing. Where is the Inclusive Church? The first few of this kind of enquiry confused until we realised people thought 'church' must mean a building. No... Inclusive church is a movement, an intention, a desire, a commitment. Join in!
But there were those who had been hurt, injured, rejected, pushed away, isolated, shunned. They had been made to feel that God wasn't for them -- by other Christians. I struggled and continue to struggle with this. Coming from a thoroughly liberal Christian background I will likely always struggle to understand the mind-set that seems so much at odds with my interpretation of the scriptures. But try I must because the stories we tell each other of our faith and our journey with God are always important to share. And Saturday helped.
For one thing, I was astonished and thankful that those who had been pushed away wanted to come back. God is bigger, beyond and more understanding than all of us, and those who have been marginalised seem to know this. The stories we shared and the upsets that had led to them are a deep well of hurt and frustration, but they also speak of a challenge to us all to find ways to live as one body, believing in one bread.
Simon Bale: Inclusive Church Ambassador in the Diocese of Bath & Wells