World Aids Day 2014 Through Another Lens

I am still pondering the impact this #WAD2014 has had on me and I am not ready to share it yet. However, here is a reflection from my beautiful friend Will, who drove all the way from Northampton to spend the day with us on World Aids Day 2014: 

Within the church world the word “gay” is one that brings massive tension, with so many denominations and Christians having different viewpoints.

Within the gay world the world “church” brings just as many tensions, with people having horror stories about how they have been treated, or jokes about don’t you catch fire when you walk in?

So when I heard that Streetspace Bournemouth was one of the organisers of a service in a gay bar for world aids day I wanted to be there. 

What I experienced and witnessed left me with some massive questions about what we need to learn in how to be church, and the way we treat others.

The main service was held in DYMK  a Gay bar in the Bournemouth Triangle. As we turned up the bar staff greeted us and helped get things organised. There was no feeling of the church invading there space, and much more of a feeling of being valued guests. 

As clergy started to gather from various churches I started to wonder where I was, this was more like high church than the relaxed services I am used to. As small worship band (brought together just for the service) practiced, the Bar staff helping with sound levels and refreshments.

Order of service were handed out, the service was of a format that everyone would be familiar with, with Readings, Prayers, A Sermon, Hymns and a candle lighting response. 

The verse about God being present when 2 or more gather comes to mind, as Gods presents in the room was clear. The level of reverence was surprising to me, I had wondered if the venue would be a distraction, but people were engaged and listing to the sermon, reflecting during prayers.

After the service the Bar Staff served Tea and Coffee, cupcakes were offered round and people got the chance to meet new people, or just return to their usual evening activities.

Later in the evening a candle lighting remembrance was held on the steps of the triangle, the owner of the local cafĂ© spoke about the community, and the work of the forma hospice The Sanctuary. A book of remembrance was laid open in the middle. 

While we stood in the cold cool of the evening, some of us looked through the names of those lost, the number of people on each page grows as you turn each page, the detestation of HIV/AIDs is all too apparent, leaving it hard to do anything but sit think, pray and reflect.

The cold was taken away by the very welcome, and amazingly good hot chocolate that started to be served. There in the cold people shared their stories, the effect that HIV/AIDs has had on them and friends and family. People spoke with such honestly, about subject’s personal to them, without any fear of rejection.

As a church we are often scared and fearful of entering worlds that others might see as wrong. But that very world has got so much to remind us about, what it means to care for each other, how to love without judgement, and a level of hospitality I have rarely felt when within the church world.