Proud of Pride?

Pride weekend  is a really big deal for MCC Newcastle (the church I call home) because it is our once-a-year opportunity to reach out into the LGBT community in a HUGE way (there are lots of other chances throughout the year, of course, but Pride is the biggest.) The Outreach and Publicity team started planning our outreach at Pride months ago and came up with t-shirts, leaflets, free badges and so on. There was a real buzz around the MCCN stall, especially younger people wanting a free badge and sometimes a chat about faith too. I was there, helping at the stall and also marched in the Parade…

MCCN Pride Banner

I still find Pride difficult on some levels, though.

Saturday’s march and celebration was the biggest yet (20,000 people) and part of the “problem” was that it felt very crowded. Another part was that to me it felt over commercialised. Northern Pride has only been going for five years and it has grown a lot but I quite liked the way it used to feel home-spun and grassroots and friendly and subversive and alternative.  All of this aside, though, and not forgetting the excellent Women’s Tent that was included this year, I wonder if part of the reason I struggled on Saturday was due to the good old “clash” between sexuality and spirituality that still occasionally nags at my soul. “Pride” was never something a good Christian was supposed to have, after all. I remember feeling very uncomfortable the first time I ever visited an MCC (it wasn’t the one in Newcastle) and we must have arrived the week before Pride because all I remember was how much they were talking about pride pride pride and to me that felt so alien and so strange and so un-Christian. I was happy to be with a woman, but not so happy about “flaunting” it in front of the whole world like it was that and that alone that constituted my entire identity (I remember saying the only identity I would claim was a Christian one!)

But then I remember, rarely will anyone else in the Christian world touch Pride except to protest or condemn. MCC fills an important need – that of ministering to LGBT people in an appropriate and affirming way. People are surprised to see a church at Pride – and Cecilia (the Pastor) gets a lot of attention because she is marching wearing a clergy collar. As she said in a recent blog entry:

We need to show our people that God is there for them and the church is rightfully theirs.

The march was the Saturday, and on Sunday we held a special Pride Service to celebrate Pride weekend in a church-y way. We had new people thanks to our outreach the day before and we sang one of my favourite Christian songs of all time, Blessed Be Your Name. This song has found real resonance in our community (and in many others) because it speaks of having faith in the hard times as well as the easy ones:

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say:

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

( Beth and Matt Redman © 2002 Survivor)

The song has personal resonance for me as it was one of the songs I remember singing on the day I became a Christian (I might share that story another day!). We sang it often in the small charismatic Evangelical church I attended immediately after that too, and then in the big charismatic-ish Anglican church I started to attend once I got to uni. Although both these churches eventually made me feel less-than-welcome because of my sexuality (yet another story for another day!), at heart I still love a good worship song and this one particularly. The cherry on the metaphorical cake was when my partner and I, jaded, tired and let-down by mainstream Christianity, finally plucked up the courage to attend MCC Newcastle and the person in charge of music stood up and said “today we are going to learn a new song” and it turned out that it was Blessed be Your Name. This felt like real affirmation from God, a confirmation that we had finally come to the right place.

I think I might always find Pride a bit difficult because it brings up the spectre of the question I always ask myself: “what is my core identity?” The Pride Service is easier, because it feels right to celebrate and give back to God, praising in the joy and the sadness of being LGBT and Christian at the same time. I am proud of my God who made all people, blessed be his name!

3 thoughts on “Proud of Pride?

  1. […] Middle Ground has a facinating article entitled Proud of Pride? This blog which is a new face on the blogosphere is written by somebody who is part of a MCC congregation and engages with the relationship between faith and LGBTQ issues from a practitioner perspective primarily. However, she is also an academic and was one of the contributors to the GLAD conference on sexuality, gender identity and faith I attended in June and blogged about in this post. […]

  2. […] I was looking forward to Living Waters though feeling anxious about it too. I blogged about my mixed feelings about Pride and sketched out a rough idea for blog posts for the rest of the […]

  3. […] indicates MCC churches in the UK and they take a range of forms. Middle Ground’s July blog post on Pride explains how she sees ’MCC fills an important need – that of ministering to LGBT […]

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