"I believe as a church community we have both been tested and strengthened in our faith by the experience of engaging with Living in Love and Faith."
Revd Andy Muckle, vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church West Moors reflects on taking part in the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) five-week course over Zoom and explains why others should be encouraged to do the same.
“As a church community we felt it was very important for us as a loving group of Christians journeying through life together to engage with this material” explained Revd Andy Muckle.
The St Mary’s Parish Church West Moors community initially experienced “some trepidation” about engaging with the material, Andy revealed.
“As leaders, we were initially wary that using Zoom would be inhibiting to those attending but the feedback received was that Zoom actually enabled people to speak openly” he said.
He continued: “People reflected back that whilst the course material was deeply personal and uncomfortable in places, the experience of engaging with the material deepened their understanding of people with different experiences than their own.
“Having the videos to present and run the sessions consistently throughout the course was very helpful.
“There was very positive feedback from participants on the powerfully moving story films.
“They were given an insight into worlds they had not seen.
Reflecting on the experience of taking part in the LLF course as a church community, Andy said: “It would be difficult to say people enjoyed the course,” he laughed, “but they engaged, they were open, and as incumbent, I was extremely proud of the open and honest conversations we took part in.”
“I believe as a church community we have both been tested and strengthened in our faith by the experience of engaging with Living in Love and Faith.”
Edited by Admin User, Thursday, 21 October 2021, 3:41 PM
Holsworthy Benefice, North Devon
"As a young person growing up in a rural church as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, taking part in LLF was an incredibly valuable opportunity – although difficult at times"
Mother Elizabeth Burke is the Rector of Holsworthy Benefice in North Devon, which includes the small market town of Holsworthy and four villages.
She said, “Rural might be stereotyped as backward or more traditional but the reality is, that this is a subject area that is affecting people locally and people want to engage with. “The ratios of LGBTQI+ people growing-up are the same in a rural
area as in a city. It’s just that the populations are smaller and dispersed. “I think it is harder for those of the LGBTQI+ community in rural areas, because there is a lack of support or places to meet.”
Lizzy Flaherty, a student church member who did the course, said: “As a young person growing up in a rural church as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, taking part in LLF was an incredibly valuable opportunity – although difficult at times.
“It was great to talk about these topics on which there is often silence, speak about my experiences of both inclusion and discrimination, and be listened to, listen to others, and most importantly listen to the Holy Spirit.”
Elizabeth said she found running the course “very positive.” She added, “There was lots of healthy open discussion. Even the shyest of people joined in and contributed.
“People were very respectful and listened to each other. “There was a sense of a relief that we were talking about these issues and they found the materials really helpful.”
Elizabeth feels it is important for as many churches as possible to engage with the LLF process. "The body of Christ has this opportunity to listen and learn from one another. For those churches either nervous or against the process ask yourselves
why? If we don’t engage, if we don’t seek to listen, learn and understand, then we can’t expect our position to be taken into account when decisions are made going forward.”
Edited by Admin User, Thursday, 21 October 2021, 3:18 PM
St Mary of Bethany, Woking
"There should be no fear in doing the course. Its purpose seems not necessarily to change people’s minds on the subjects, but to help them to understand better and to accept as still faithfully Christian, views that differ from their own"
Sarah Tapp, a curate of a charismatic and evangelical church, is encouraging others to take part in Living in Love and Faith (LLF) following the completion of courses in her parish. Sarah ran two courses online at St Mary of Bethany, Woking, Surrey.
Each course - attended by around 10 people in each - allowed participants to scratch the surface of deeply held views together.
“There should be no fear in doing the course. Its purpose seems not necessarily to change people’s minds on the subjects, but to help them to understand better and to accept as still faithfully Christian, views that differ from their own,” she said.
“It’s incredibly worthwhile. Just the existence of LLF has created a space for people to talk about something that is rarely discussed in church. “I have had conversations with people on and around the subject that may never have arisen if it weren’t
for LLF. “Even if entire churches have yet to become completely safe for people to be themselves, it has certainly made space for people (even those too hurt to do the course) to find and talk to ‘safe people’ with less fear than perhaps before.
“For us, it has brought into the light the differing views and experiences of Church that already harmoniously coexist in our evangelical setting.”
The two groups that Sarah led generally held different views when they began the course. But, despite the groups being diverse in age and views, all came to learn. Sarah said: “I did not get the impression from anyone in either group that they felt
as if they had nothing to learn, on the contrary, I believe they all came to be challenged and to learn.” She added that LLF was not about changing minds.
She said: “Friendships have deepened, and discussions have opened up, that are sure to be growth areas for faith and fellowship. “I am not aware that anyone’s view has changed, but they are certainly more sympathetic to each other (and the ‘other’),
as it has become about relationships and people, rather than just a point of view or position.”