December is a funny month for those of us involved in the life of local Churches. The same thing appears to happen every year, each year Christmas surprises us, each year we say we are not quite ready and each year we tell each other how busy we are. So to set a new trend I thought I would take a few blog posts to reflect on some of the beautiful adventures that December graced me with:
Adventure Number 1 has to be ... World Aids Day
1st December has been a staple diary date for me since the mysterious appearance of my son. When I found myself pregnant at 16 years old it was viewed by many others as the worse possible thing that could ever have resulted from a few minutes of fun, people, often relative strangers to me and my family, made their statements of disappointment, disgust and disapproval loud and clear and yet for me its was not the worst outcome that could of occurred!
HIV/Aids has affected a number of my friends; both young and old, heterosexual and homosexual, black and white, rich and poor, one thing is clear HIV does not discriminate! It appears in peoples lives and turns them upside down, inside out and back to front and World Aids Day offers the chance to remember those that have been affected by HIV/Aids, to raise awareness of the issue and to celebrate the lives that are living positively.
A few years back there used to be a World Aids Day Service in a local town centre Church however we noted that the local LGBTQ community rarely attended the event. The jump from the community into the Church building was far too wide and with a lack of relationships the bridge between the two spaces was ropey at best.
So in 2012 a few of us Church leader types who were already involved in the LGBTQ community got together and prayed for an answer to this issue. Behold we got a response, we dared to dream: what if we held a service in the heart of the LGBTQ community? and we began to ponder the questions: Would people come? Would we be welcome? Would it be a crossing place that helped to make the bridge between the two communities stronger?
So we gave it a go, we approached a local bar who welcomed the idea and took the risk with us in making it a reality. In that first service about 45/50 of us gathered together, spent some time in sung worship, prayed and gave space for each other to consider those we have lost to HIV/Aids and to catch glimpses of hope for those around us living positively.
So in 2013 we prayed and dreamed even bigger. With some financial support from CMS we were able to curate a beautiful event, the local Mayor came and our numbers trebled the year before. The pattern stayed the same but this time the leadership was more diverse and inclusive with clergy from 5 different Churches being represented.
Most touchingly, we were treated by a local cabaret singer performing a stunning reflective solo piece, as candles were lit & ribbons placed on a tree representing each loved one that has passed, tears flowed freely and the atmosphere was tangible, might sound a bit super spiritual but God really was there in that space. It would be crass of me to share the details of the conversations and encounters that occurred but needless to say their were moments of tears, glimpses of reconciliation and lots of love shared that day.
After the service the party started, cupcakes and drinks were shared, music flowed and much needed funds were raised for a local charity that offers HIV testing.
The best bit? Laughter filled the space. New relationships were birthed and we booked in a date for Cocktails and Carols or what I call, Adventure Number 2!