Love made visible, love made whole

Kate Finlay reflects on her mother’s transformative experience attending her first Pride march, emphasising the importance of love, acceptance, and inclusivity within religious communities.

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Last year my mother went to her first Pride march. She came to Pride in London and joined us at SJP, while on a visit from San Francisco.

She has always loved me, but still I was nervous on how the day would go. While there is so much more nuance and beauty in her than I can do justice, she’s never been particularly vocal in support of LGBTQ+ rights. Despite my being gay, we’ve mostly avoided the topic, both personal and political. And in silence, where do we go? With uncertainty and swiss cheese love that cuts around parts of our truest self, we hide and fracture. We stub our toes in the night on the things we try to tiptoe around.

After a few hours handing out cake, my mom went out to join the priests along the parade route on Piccadilly, who held a simple message: you are loved, every part of you. Person after person hugged the clergy and shared their stories of alienation and broken promises, some with tears in their eyes. She watched the sparkling crowds pass by, and told me later that Pride wasn’t what she expected or heard about at all. The conversations we have about each other without each other rarely match the reality of what we see when we share our worlds. By the end of the day, she turned to me and asked, “can I borrow your rainbow flag and wave it for a while?”

I can’t say what, on the spectrum of amusement to revelation, each marcher saw in us that day, but what I can say is my own experience: that it was a rainbow on a poster on Piccadilly that brought me to St James’s. That it was my first time at church in a long time. That it felt new to find a community where queerness and faith and so much more, are not in opposition but lived out in harmony.

During Pride month, we can feel oversaturated by rainbows, making messages of inclusion seem obvious, even redundant. Except that they aren’t, especially in places of worship across the world. Is this the hill that the church, quite literally, wants to die on? A recent poll by PIRR found 47% of people who left their religion did so due to the way LGBTQ+ individuals have been treated. In the footprint of the unspeakable things that have been done and are still being done to queer people in the name of God, in the absence of remorse and reconciliation, we deny all the ability to hold with integrity values of hospitality, belonging, and love. Inclusion should start with the church, not end with it.

In the Eucharistic prayer this past Sunday, we heard that communion is “love made visible, love made whole”. God’s love and sacrifice incarnate, and through it, the restoration of all love is and can be.

And this is my wish for Pride, and for the church: that queer people may see love made visible, and experience love made whole. Love in all its texture, for us in all our texture. Love for ourselves, for our community, for those we choose to love, for the mystery and beauty of our creation, fearful and wonderful and fabulous all at once.

In my first Pride as LGBTQ+ Coordinator, I am deeply excited about what the Pride of St James’s group has to offer this year. I’m particularly looking forward to our film event on the 30th, co-hosted by the International Group, featuring a series of short films that explore themes of asylum, migration, and identity. And to our conversation on the 23rd with Fr Jarel Robinson-Brown, author of “Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer”, which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend adding to your June book list.

We will also have opportunities to share food and build community, both on the 20th at a lovely Pride of St James’s dinner at Lucy’s flat, and on Pride Sunday (30th of June) after the service with a bring and share lunch organized by Debbie.

And of course, on Pride Saturday on the 29th of June, we will celebrate. We’ll host a party in the courtyard facing the parade, including a drag DJ set from our own lovely Barbara, face painting, arts & crafts, and more. SJP also has a spot in the march, and I do hope you will walk with us. Please come, join the conversation, and help create space for people to know they don’t have to close off any part of themselves. That love is where we start, and where we go together.