The temptation to start this with a pun about the Queen’s Christmas address was almost overwhelming, particularly as I’ve clearly been watching too much of The Crown on Netflix. And for many, not only would that joke have been poor form, but so would be that this Christmas blog is being written in November, an affront which many of my Anglican friends who like things higher up the candle will add to their list of strange things that this Baptist does…
I jest, of course. Sort of.
But there is some truth mixed among the attempts at humour: since taking over as Executive Director in May of this year, I have been reminded again and again that we are the only truly ecumenical members network working for a better church for LGBTQ+ in the UK, and this is something to be immensely proud of. Whilst our differences may sometimes get the better of us liturgically, we are able to unite together over a common goal: the inbreaking Kingdom of God for ALL people. Hold me back! I feel a sermon on the incarnation coming on…
Many of you may have seen that Churches Together in England recently made the decision to “empty seat” the appointed President, Hannah Brock Womack, from the Quaker tradition. In fact, our statement of solidarity was one of our most interacted with pieces of social media to date, with dozens of you retweeting, sharing, and adding comments of solidarity and anger at the decision made by CTE. This tells me two things:
- We are a passionate and powerful group of members, partners, and friends,
- There is still much that we have to do.
We are greater when our voices are unified, and I am excited about what is before us as an organisation, and as an expression of Christ’s church.
This year we have tried new things, including our first ever panel session at Greenbelt with over 200 in attendance. We are grateful to our friends at OUT and Greenbelt for carving out a space for this, enabling particularly the voices of Trans and Non-Binary Christians to be heard loudly and proudly (in scorching temperatures, no less).
We also launched our fledgling members area, a space dedicated to the equipping of our members for the work of grassroots change in your local churches and Christian communities. This vital space was debuted alongside our excellent Amazing Love series, an interactive video and study guide for those exploring inclusion in the churches, based around the book of the same name by Andrew Davison. And we’ve more exciting content to come, including a reflection series for Advent before the year is out.
It was also one of the highlights of my ministry to date to coordinate OneBodyOneFaith’s first ever activists retreat at the beautiful Othona Community in Essex. This was curated over three days, with the input and wisdom of Liz Nottingham who facilitated the weekend alongside me. It was an immensely successful pilot, truly giving back to those who tirelessly give to the church, and I’m delighted that we’ll be able to do it again more than once in 2020, opening up this space of reflection and nourishment to a wider audience.
To end the year, we are once again celebrating the “Big Queer Carols” at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 6th December at 7pm. A chance for us to come and celebrate the joys of being LGBTQ+ and provide an affirming space in what is often a challenging time of year. We will be hearing from three wonderful speakers offering short reflections, singing some absolute belters of our favourite carols (look away again, those who are strict observers of the church calendar…!), and sharing mince pies, mulled wine, and soft drinks after the service.
I of course am not a one-person band, and have the pleasure to work with our Operations Manager, Katie, who not only handles the practicalities of getting things like this out to you, but also has a depth of insight of the organisation that has been invaluable as I have found my feet in my new role. Peter, our Chair of the Board of Trustees, is a dedicated and able partner in coordinating and empowering the fantastic team who govern and administrate this historic organisation. If you aren’t familiar with who that group of people are, then do check out our website and read about them there – including our three more recent additions to the team this year, Jo Winn-Smith, Lisa Lewis and Mark Rowland.
I could inevitably write much more about what this year has been for OneBodyOneFaith, but I’d also like to share a little of what we’re planning for 2020, which includes more of what I’ve written about here: resources, retreats, and relating, also conferences and workshops that our members will receive preferential rates for – including a reworking of our successful Trans and Non-Binary conference, this time in Bristol; and a reformatted AGM (with a new date in June!). Details on all of this and much more to come.
And so, if you will indulge, I will leave you with a final request: spread the word! Our membership is on the up and we’re seeing fantastic engagement with new friends, partners, and broader networks, but we need more support to continue the legacy of the work with which we have been entrusted. Why not gift a membership to a loved one for Christmas? Or if you’re not currently registered to give via direct debit, would you consider doing so?
We are an organisation built by and for our members, and it is by your continued support that we are able to continue the much-needed work that we do.
With that, I am delighted to wish you a very Merry Christmas on behalf of myself, Katie, and the Board of Trustees, with prayers for the year ahead!
Luke Dowding, Executive Director