Church in Wales Memorial Service

Church in Wales Memorial Service

Following the first LGBT+ Memorial service in London in April 2023, OneBodyOneFaith discerned with faith leaders the need to share these services across the four nations of the UK. On 26th May 24, in partnership with leaders of the Church in Wales and The Gathering ( a church for LGBTQ+ people and their allies in Cardiff), a Memorial service for the people of Wales was held in Cardiff.

As we gathered at Llandaff Cathedral, the heavy rain and clouds that had been a constant presence all weekend started to disperse. The sun broke through, and the beauty of Llandaff was revealed. It was noticeable how many of us instinctively looked up. To see and to feel the sun. This was a poignant metaphor for the experience of the service itself.

The Wales Memorial Service was a moment in time. A landmark along the way, in what for many LGBT+ people of faith and belief remains a challenging journey.

The Welsh Memorial service, hosted by the Bishops and Archbishop from the Church in Wales, in the beautiful surroundings of Llandaff Cathedral was full of moments that initiated a sharp intake of breath. The first of which, for me, was Bishop Gregory’s words in his memorial homily:

‘What should be the notes we sound as we reflect on the past… and make this service of Memorial. The first note must surely be repentance…for centuries of persecution and harm. For the church has forced upon LGBT people a sense of shame, silence, secrecy and oppression. Of this we must repent’

The impact of these words, of the honest and open recognition from a leader in the Church, was immediate and palpable. 

Throats closed; eyes lowered or lifted, depending on the starting point of each person; tears fell; grief was revealed; hurt, shame, oppression and pain rose to the surface. But as these strong feelings rose, they were met in love, with honest recognition of the harm many in the room had experienced directly, and others gathered in allyship had watched and stood in opposition to. 

Love necessitates change and love was at the very heart of this service.

‘Change must come. The Church must learn to do better…. God’s love can transcend even the most difficult of situations. We have forgotten to whom we belong. For every child is a child of God’ (Bishop Gregory)

As the congregation laid white flowers in remembrance of thosewe have lost to the overwhelm of spiritual despair; and in tribute to those who survive but suffer; the echo of the Elizabeth Choir singing the notes of Do Not Be Afraid rang out..

The prayers of The Gathering asked the unspoken question for an unknown number in the room, ‘Where is God in all this?’. The response pointed to Jesus’ experience of standing falsely accused, punished, tortured and sacrificed following false accusations and human fear and malevolence. Humanity at its worst. How such a revelation of love, kindness, goodness, and honest challenge, could be so seriously misunderstood by human authority, remains as much a mystery today as it has over the intervening centuries. But we recognise that we continue to see this pattern now; we understand how fallible human power can be and the picture of counterattack to leadership defined by love, honesty, integrity and an authority that calls on a far deeper set of values. The service and evident leadership in Llandaff, was a balm to the souls of all those tired of this pattern.

As the service started to look forward to a new covenant, in which all might be equally valued and the humanity of all affirmed, we entered this space with care. Bishop Mary questioned how we might call for reconciliation in the face of harm and oppression. The hope of a real love, a divine love that far surpasses our human attempts, was reflect in Bishop Mary’s homily,

‘In God we find a love that does not let us go. That accompanies us. 

A love that dares us to be bold, even and especially in the face of hurt, grief and loss.’

As the second purple flowers were laid, a greater number of those gathered stepped forward in hope and commitment to change. 

The image of the tapestry of flowers woven in grief and love by those gathered at Llandaff, and Archbishop Andrew’s final prayer over all that had been laid down and offered in this time together, serves as a lasting memorial to the journey to date and the progress to change.

To explore more about the Wales Memorial Service with Church in Wales, or support us with further Memorials for the UK, please see: Church in Wales videos and  Pioneering Projects | OneBodyOneFaith

Andrea King, Director, Strategy and Safeguarding