Today’s post is from guest blogger Thomas Bartsch.
On Saturday 28th October – the feast of the apostles, SS Simon & Jude – the parish of St. Alban in Chaddesden, Derby, United Kingdom, hosted the second annual Mass for LGBT people, their families and friends in the Diocese of Nottingham, in the midlands region of England. About eighty people gathered for Mass, among them many parishioners of St. Alban’s. The Mass was celebrated by the parish priest, Fr. David Cain, along with two concelebrants.
The Mass occurred a year after diocesan Bishop Patrick McKinney celebrated a Mass for LGBT people in the Cathedral Church of St. Barnabas. Bishop McKinney recently told the Catholic weekly, The Tablet:
“My hope, as I travel about the diocese, is that more LGBT Catholics do feel welcome and part of the parish where they attend Mass, and that they are involved in its life and work. These occasional Masses for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, in various parts of the diocese of Nottingham are more to reassure those LGBT Catholics who may feel hurt and uncared for by the Church, that they are very much part of the pastoral care I wish to ensure is offered to all Catholics in the diocese.”
In his homily for this year’s Mass at SS Simon and Jude, Fr. David reflected on the diversity in the community of apostles and on the difficulties of living with diversity. He pointed to the differences in character and outlook between Simon “the Zealot”, Jude, Peter, and later Paul, and to the conflicts that often arose between them as they followed the joint mission that they had been given.
Nevertheless, he continued, this diversity was not an accident or an oversight on Jesus’ part. As the gospels tell us, Jesus chose the apostles after a night of prayer in which he discerned God’s will. Similarly, we, too, do the God’s will if we come together in the diverse community of the Church. In spite of differences of opinion, misunderstandings, and conflicts, we can be sure that our attempts to live the faith together will be blessed.
To illustrate this diversity within the Church, Fr David brought with him to Mass a Rainbow Fish which he had created earlier in the week at a children’s club during their school break. As well as being a symbol of peace, he explained, the rainbow is also used as a symbol for the diversity of the LGBT community. It may also serve as a metaphor for the Church comprising peoples of all languages, races, cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations and gender identities.
At last year’s Mass, Bishop McKinney reflected on Jesus’ meeting with the tax collector Matthew:
“The view we have of ourselves can often be limited and indeed negatively affected by the way others look upon us and the labels they give us. . . let us take comfort and hope from today’s Gospel story of Matthew who allowed Jesus to draw close to him, to look upon him with love and mercy, so freeing him from a narrow understanding of himself and enabling him to look upon himself as Jesus looked upon him.”
The event received strong support from the parishioners of the hosting parish, who not only attended the Mass, but also helped to prepare for it, provided all the liturgical ministries (including the involvement of the parish music group) and organised cakes and drinks for the refreshments following Mass. They provided a warm welcome to the LGBT people, their families and friends who arrived from across the diocese and beyond, and they set the tone for a joyful celebration.
Along with the parish and its pastor, the even was organized by Simon Baldwin, Thomas Bartsch, Claire Jenkins, Chris Miles, and Greg Thornton–all members of Quest, a U.K. Catholic organization which promotes pastoral ministry with LGBT people. The organizers expressed their appreciation in a statement:
“With their enthusiastic support for, and participation in, the Mass and afterwards in the Parish Hall, the parishioners of St. Alban’s helped to make the Bishop’s vision a reality. Looking back to the celebration, we can only thank Fr David and his parish for their hospitality and Bishop Patrick for opening the door for an extension of LGBT pastoral initiatives in the diocese.”
In 2015, in the Diocese of Westminster (London), Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided at a Mass for the group “LGBT Catholics Westminster,” a pastoral outreach that Nichols inaugurated. In 2016, the Diocese of Brentwood (East London) hosted a Mass at its cathedral for LGBT people in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
—Thomas Bartsch, Quest, November 24, 2017