On Saturday members of All Hallows went to the Corn Exchange in Leeds to take part in Leeds’ first event for IDAHOBiT. All Hallows had a stall set up as we wanted to witness to the LGBTQ community of Leeds that there are churches offering a voice of inclusion, welcome and love, as opposed to just the condemnation that they seem to hear about.
The stall was set up with cards with humorous and serious messages on about issues of sexuality and gender and Jesus’ attitude to it, with our details on the back. It was good to share that the church and God can and do have a sense of humour! We also bread and wine and had at least one person taking this which I found deeply moving. We made a cross with a rainbow prayer of inclusion on it which some of you may have seen in church on Sunday. However, we also had a cross which was blank so people could write prayers on it. A surprising number were happy to write prayers or blessings and the blank cross was filled with words and colour which was awesome! As well as having Jenga and Jelly Babies! The word church has the letter u missing on the photograph and as we told people this is because ‘you’ are missing from church. Thanks to Lydia as well for taking part and for taking the photograph (that’s why you can’t see her!)
We had some wonderful conversations with people who were keen to hear about our church and the work we do and were very positive and pleased to hear that there was a church offering welcome for all. Unfortunately though we also heard some sad stories that seem to be all too common of people who had be asked (told) to leave the church they were part of when they disclosed their sexuality/gender identity. This reinforced for all of us the importance of churches with an inclusive message of love getting their voices heard especially to the LGBT community; which we are glad we did on that day and shared our message that at All Hallows being the diverse ‘rainbow people of God’ is something that is very important to us A few people seemed to show a real interest in exploring All Hallows and coming along to find out for themselves what it was about… so watch this space and pray for those who we met.
One of the most moving conversations I think we had though was with a couple who just happened to come in to the Corn Exchange; one of those ‘coincidences’. Bev and Al leaders of an independent church in Bingley who shared movingly with us of their own journey from being fundamentalist Christians to being LGBT friendly and being brave enough to share this change of heart with their church. As they said though they lost one or two people the vast majority of their church was keen to go on the journey with them to become an inclusive church. They now witness to other evangelical leaders who are not as inclusive, about their change of heart and why they feel it is important to question previously held evangelical teaching about equality and marriage!