Some of us arrived at this week’s session feeling slightly apprehensive about the content of the session and what we might be expected to share! However, at the beginning of this week’s video presentation, we were reassured that no one would be asked to share anything about their experiences that we were not comfortable with.
The session began with time to think about the pastoral principle of ‘speaking into silence’ and in particular, what it is like for people whose experiences are met with silence in the church, including those who have been abused. We then watched a story film featuring Mark and Esther who shared their experiences of preparing for marriage and how they came to terms with Mark’s divorce. We then had some teaching about sex and bodies which led on to a discussion about aspects of sexual behaviour and attitudes in our culture that we find worrying and/or liberating, and what form intimacy takes in our own lives, including with God. We discussed these questions in small groups before sharing with one another some interesting issues that had arisen from our conversations.
After the group discussion, we watched a second story film featuring Andrew and Gerhard, a gay couple in a civil marriage worshipping in a church where views about same-sex relationships are mixed. They both spoke very movingly about their experiences of being ignored and overlooked by some members of the congregation but also of the way in which they had remained worshipping at the church and had found within it a good support network. This led on to this week’s Bible study on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. We reflected on the similarities that exist between Christians today and the Christians in Corinth and thought about what difference it makes to know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The session finished with a final time of teaching on sex and relationships and we discussed what questions other people might raise about sexual relationships that we find particularly difficult to respond to. We also thought about how, in practice, our parish shows the radical welcome of Jesus, while upholding Christian convictions about sexual relationships.
Here are a few reflections that were shared at the end of this week’s session:
‘How do we answer the questions of those who don’t share our views on sexual relationships?’
‘Work towards accepting individuals who are different; it must be acceptable in the body of the church.’
‘Try to accept each other as we find each other.’
‘I welcome open debate and the discussion of difficult issues.’
‘It’s hard to believe that the church isn’t welcoming to all in this day and age.’
‘We need a parish policy on inclusion. Need to understand how to manage ‘difficulties.’’
‘Help! Making rules and having policy is generally divisive.’