”My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite…”
— Romeo & Juliet Act 11 scene 2
Following our response to the bishops’ Pastoral Statement, a few members of the congregation decided to get together at church for an alternative Valentine’s evening yesterday as a symbolic protest to insist that love is far more diverse than the Church may be ready to recognise.
It was a beautiful evening: we prayed through a liturgy of celebration and blessing, we lit candles to remember a dear friend, recently lost, Kye, and to pray for the church to become more compassionate and diverse. We also shared some delicious food. Adriaan had us in stitches with food/sensuality allusions and metaphors from Song of Songs (on hearing this, you’d never look at a pomegranate the same way again!) and Nicola shared a powerful and wonderful poem, which she has just written… and left not one dry eye in the room:
This is my church, your church and our church,
a church of unity, sanctuary, asylum, a whole church
Those who have travelled whether willingly or not,
those white or of colour, those with all those who’ve not got
The upwardly mobile, middle roaders and oppressed,
those who’s assigned gender doesn’t meet the way they’re dressed
Those of native language, those with words that helped form it,
those whose emotions run so deep no words we need,
those so deeply hurt they can no longer bleed.
Those who can sing it and shout it that Jesus died for them,
those scared to even whisper for the weight of silencing from men
When I walk through the doors, oh hi so glad you are here,
not what do we do it’s her, you know her, the queer.
My name resounds in joyful muse
never feeling my sexuality, anyone does confuse,
we are there gods people,
God’s children worshipping in his image,
holding up the hearts of those broken whilst they heal,
holding those so broken they can no longer feel,
those who had once given up on mankind.
But here in my church, in your church, in ours,
all hearts are thrown open and arms wrap tightly
with the words of our beautiful all inclusive lord,
we are but people all formed in his image
so we go forth with strength and rise to the challenge.
We may have less rights be frowned on by many
but together we have faith not experienced by any,
we are the few sent to make us the many.
Together we grow, divided we fall,
if you hurt one you will hurt us all,
but we will take that pain and make it a gain
For this church is my church is your church is ours,
our sanctuary, our breath our infinite love divine,
I am so proud to with these people entwine.
My church your church ours we conquer,
ever carried forward by the strength of our father
— Nicola Edmonds, 2020
Here too is an excerpt from the liturgy we used:
An affirmation of Faith and Hope
O God, Giver of Life,
Bearer of Pain, Maker of Love,
affirming in your incarnation
the goodness of the flesh:
may the yearnings of our bodies
be fulfilled in sacraments of love,
and our earthly embracings be enjoyed
as a foretaste of the glory to come,
in the light of the resurrection of Jesus,
our Companion, our Lover and our Guide.
May the outrageous welcome of God
accept us for who we are;
May the incarnation of the Word
touch and hold us close;
May the wandering of the Spirit
help us risk ourselves for love.
May God drive us out with power
to fill the world with her justice.