Thought for the Week – What does ‘Radical Welcome’ mean for us?

Ben Bloom writes about what “Radical Welcome” might mean for us at St James’s Piccadilly, during Pride Month.

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Last Sunday, after the Eucharist, we began our conversations on “Radical Welcome” to explore what it means when we say we are an “inclusive” church at St James’s. These conversations will be continuing throughout June and July, and I hope that more and more people will join in to discuss how we can continue to seek to be ever more inclusive and reach even more people to offer for a welcome that is truly radical.  We do this not only because this feels like the right thing to do for so many of us, but because it is what Jesus called us to do throughout his ministry.

At SJP, we seek to do more, always, to embrace the values of love, acceptance, and inclusivity, and recognise that every individual is a unique and needed part of the body of Christ, and a beloved child of God. However, we know there is always more to be done, and as we enter Pride Month, we have a perfect opportunity to reflect on how we can continue fostering an environment that welcomes and supports all, celebrating the rich tapestry of God’s creation. Here are a few things I’ve been mulling over as we begin to consider what “radical welcome” might mean for us at SJP.

I believe that we seek to be a place of love and acceptance. As a church, we believe that love knows no boundaries. We understand that each person’s journey is unique, and we strive to create an environment where individuals can express their authentic selves without fear or judgment. Our doors are open wide, and our arms are outstretched to embrace everyone who seeks sanctuary, belonging, and spiritual nourishment. We recognize that true Christian love transcends societal norms, and we commit ourselves to practicing this love wholeheartedly.

I believe that we want to celebrate Diversity. When we seek to celebrate diversity, we do so as an act of worship and thanksgiving to God’s creativity and boundless love. We cherish the richness that comes from diverse backgrounds, and challenge discrimination against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe that our differences make us stronger as a church and provide us with unique opportunities to learn, grow, and deepen our understanding of one another. We seek to value the contributions and experiences of every individual, cherishing the kaleidoscope of perspectives that come together to form our collective identity.

I believe we love LGBTQ+ people, just as God does. As we celebrate Pride Month, we can emphasize our particular commitment to supporting and uplifting LGBTQ+ people in our Christian context. We affirm that sexual orientation and gender identity are an integral and God-given part of an individual’s being, and we reject any form of discrimination or prejudice both inside and outside of the Church. At SJP we strive to create a safe space where LGBTQ+ individuals can explore their faith, share their stories, and find acceptance without compromise.

I believe that our “radical welcome” should extend beyond our church’s physical walls, and even our parish boundaries. I feel that we can be quite good at who we welcome into the church, once they’re there and we’ve gotten to know them a bit, but we probably have more to do with who we welcome outside of the congregation and our regular guests. I feel that God is calling us to actively engage with the world and be a beacon of God’s inclusive love and light to all.

On Saturday 1 July, London Pride will have it’s annual parade celebrating the rich tapestry of life that we are very much all a part of, and the Parade will be marching right outside the front of SJP. We have a unique responsibility at St James’s, as the only Christian Church on the direct route of one of the world’s biggest Pride celebrations, to show the world what “radical welcome” really means.

To help us do this, we will be hosting a party in the courtyard and garden to celebrate Pride from 11am and 2pm on Saturday 1 July. I hope the whole church family will come together to be a witness of God’s inclusive and radical love to everyone as they march past or our church on that day. Imagine what a surprise it will be to some to receive such a “radical welcome” from a Church that has done an awful lot to convince a lot of people that they are not welcome.

I believe it is our Christian responsibility, and a huge part of our commitment as an inclusive church, to tell people just how loved they are, exactly as they are, and because of who they are. I hope you will come and join in the fun and add your voice to the chorus of celebration at God’s incredible creativity and offer everyone the “radical welcome” that God offers us all.

Pride of St James’s Pride Parade Party, Saturday 1 July 11am–2pm