The Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough’s Outreach Ministry to the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community launched with a Mass in York on 10th December 2017.
Despite a snowy weather forecast, some 60 participants travelled from across the diocese, with additional partakers from as far afield as Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, and Birmingham. Catholic members of the LGBT+ community were joined by their families, friends, and “straight ally” supporters. A few Christians from other denominations also attended.
All gathered in the ‘hidden chapel’ of York’s historic Bar Convent, at the kind invitation of the Sisters of the Congregation of Jesus. It was noted in the words of welcome that the Bar Convent has a long history of offering sanctuary, and began its life to support minorities suffering persecution by civil and religious authorities at the time.
Music for the beautiful Advent liturgy was led by the music ministry from Our Lady’s Parish in Acomb.
Mass began with a Litany of Welcome reminding those present that all people have a place in the Christian community because all belong to Jesus Christ, and it is his table the Church gathers around at the Eucharist. It is God who counts us worthy, and the welcome which the Church makes visible is God’s welcome to all in Christ.
After Mass the congregation socialised over coffee and mince pies, and a number of people shared something of their journey. Among the stories and experiences shared was that of a young man from Middlesbrough Diocese who stopped attending Mass as a teenager, not because he had lost his faith but because he felt his parish community would not accept him. He was very pleased at the launch of the new ministry which he felt gave him the opportunity to start attending Mass again.
Those who attended the launch were asked how they would like to see this ministry develop in the future. As an initial step, it was agreed that a Mass with an explicit welcome to the LGBT+ community, families and friends, will be celebrated at the Bar Convent on the second Sunday of each month at 3pm, commencing on 14th January. In time, a rotation of priests from the Diocese will preside at these Masses, and in due course the community that gathers will develop a broader programme that is spiritual, social, and supportive.
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