Last week, Bondings 2.0 announced we would be collecting LGBTQ-related spiritual practices and resources that have been particularly meaningful or helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic when normal spiritual routines have been disrupted. [To submit your spiritual practices and resources, use the form at the end of this post. The deadline for submission is Wednesday, April 15th.]
One resource to share already is the website “Praying Eucharistically” newly released by Fr. James Alison, a gay theologian and prominent LGBTQ advocate, who hopes it will help lead to new forms of community in a renewed church.
Alison released “Praying Eucharistically,” available here, in response to the social distancing that has meant most Christians forgoing communal worship at Christianity’s holiest time of the year. Alison said that streamed Masses seemed “bizarrely clerical and pointless,” prompting him to “try something a little bolder.” The result is a website, updated weekly, which features the texts necessary for celebrating Eucharist in the Catholic tradition, a homily by Alison, and some helpful notes on different points of the liturgy. All of this relies on the belief that all Christians are priestly people. Alison explained:
“So it seemed to me that it might be worth putting my presbyteral orders at your service by offering a structure to enable a new way of praying eucharistically for any members of the priesthood (that’s all of us baptized, remember) who want to try it out. One especially tailored to the exigent circumstances of these days, where it is not possible for the vast majority of the faithful of any denomination to participate presentially in a liturgy with an ordained presbyter or pastor presiding. This new way of praying eucharistically will also, I hope, turn out to be a source of enrichment for whatever emerges when the exigent circumstances are past.”
Part of praying eucharistically in new ways means being queer affirming, added Alison in a postscript that acknowledged his own orientation and commitment to creating safe spaces:
“P.S. This will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I think it worth saying: This site, and many of the tools for worship involved, are the work of an openly gay Catholic priest and his friends. You can be guaranteed that you will hear no homophobic preaching on this site –I’ll even try my ecumenical best to be straight-friendly. I’m seeking to provide a safe space from which, among others, gay and lesbian Christians, may pray as we are. If however, it disturbs you to be worshipping in the company of sinners such as ourselves, then you may find other sites better suited to your needs.”
Being inclusive in this latest project is typical of Alison’s longtime commitment to LGBTQ equality in the church. His recent interventions have been calling the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood the “elephant in the sacristy” and calling on the laity to help gay priests out of the “lying trap.” For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Alison’s advocacy, click here.
Alison’s advocacy and theological reflection that has challenged church teaching ended up leaving him in an ecclesial limbo, exercising ministry only at the church’s margins. Until last year.
In 2019, Alison received a phone call from Pope Francis, who restored the priest to ministry. He reflected on this experience on Bondings 2.0 last December, and recently in U.S. Catholic, as well. Alison acknowledged the scandal caused by the church’s treatment of LGBTQ people, citing statistics that name it as the top reason why Catholics have left the church, over and above the sexual abuse crisis. As a response to this scandal, the theologian harkened back to small communities of the faithful, similar to the ones for whom “Praying Eucharistically” can be a resource:
“The real presence of Jesus in such eucharists, as something that can very often be felt and known by those gathered, is so far beyond scholastic definition as to be astounding. This it has been my privilege to discover firsthand.”
More specific to LGBTQ people, Alison wrote about the “church of the confessors: those who held firm to their faith, and confessed it, in the midst of the great persecution,” now centrally to this renewal of the church in new forms of community. He continued:
“This great persecution was when, over a 35-year period, the full weight of hateful rhetoric was brandished by an apparently strong and triumphant church, rich in fake certainties, fake apostles, and a leadership we now know to have been quite extraordinarily corrupt and cowardly. And yet the ‘church of the confessors’ had to go through the hard work of learning to distinguish between that which was of Jesus and that which was of self-righteous hatred, and at a time when it was not so obvious as it is now how much of the reaction to Vatican II was creating a giant mirage tinted with ecclesiastical kitsch.
“Now that the mirage has been exploded, I find that everywhere I go (and within the last few months I’ve been with wonderful groups in Peru, Chile, and Mexico and am finding more all the time) those who have already gone through the loss of everything they held dear in a church that didn’t hold them dear are the ones who are excellently well-placed to initiate the creation of new forms of shared Christian community and living. And many, many straight people—including some wonderful Catholic parents of LGBT children—have found that there is a basic honesty and transparency among such groups. It is a pleasure to share with them in the unworried rediscovery of what it is to ‘be church.'”
Where is Pope Francis in all of this? Alison said it seems “entirely consistent” with the pope’s view that “the peripheries will bring the gospel to the center” as part of a “fresh discovery of Christianity.”
Alison is clear about both the need for LGBTQ-affirming faith spaces and the gift that LGBTQ people and allies offer to the wider church. Bondings 2.0 hopes you will share those spiritual gifts which have brought meaning and help to your life during the COVID-19 pandemic, not only as a resource for our community, but for the wider church. Think broadly when you think “spiritual practices and resources.” These things could be spiritual reflections, books, video clips, quotes, songs, photographs, poems, scriptural verses, authors, memes, saints and other inspiring people, liturgies, embodied prayer, and more. To submit your spiritual practices and resources, use the form below. The deadline for submission is Wednesday, April 15th.