STEADFAST LOVE & FAITHFULNESS?
Sexuality & Spirituality at Scottish Churches House, 6-8 June 2008
Have you ever wondered what Moira Anderson has in common with a cowboy’s trousers, or The Thong of Thongs with a stuffed Stegosaurus? Have you ever needed a road map to find that elusive nursing home in Ayr? Well, there was full and frank discussion of all these issues at Affirmation Scotland’s June gathering, attracting members and friends from as far afield as Moray in the north and Tyne & Wear in the south.
Kathy Galloway, leader of the Iona Community, set the mood for this year’s theme of sexuality and spirituality with poetry, song and a group reading of The Song of Songs, whose sometimes bizarre metaphors for female beauty – your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing, for one – gave rise, later, to as much hilarity as delight. Kathy grounded her theme in the person and example of Jesus, and in the wider context of justice and human rights, movingly illustrated by her account of a recent visit to a former slave station in West Africa.
Splitting up into smaller groups, we explored the conflicting messages received from the Bible, the teaching and traditions of the Church, and our own culture and experience, before moving on to identify signposts towards a contemporary sexual ethic. The sunshine tempted most of the discussion groups outside – behind-the-bushes-in-the-graveyard being the venue of choice for the oikodomiaphiles* among us.
What else did we do? We worshipped together. Throughout the weekend, the re-reading of the story of the Canaanite woman who came out shouting at Jesus about her demon-tormented daughter, framed and sanctified our own coming out stories. In song, prayer and Holy Communion, our bodies, our sexuality, our loving relationships, were celebrated and blessed – affirming that Christian companionship can become a reality, that our histories can be made holy, and that Christ can be present in our lives.
We are all Ministers, Lindsay Louise Biddle, chaplain to Affirmation Scotland, had said. We found that Ministry did indeed extend beyond our worship time, as we created for each other a safe space, where we relaxed, made music, prepared and ate meals together, laughed a lot and shared our stories.
After hugs, kisses and blessings, we went on our way with a little extra hope and courage, to build relationships within our own Churches and to work, as Kathy Galloway suggested, for those changes that will come, not from the Church hierarchy, but from the initiatives of individual congregations.
* those of us whose passions were inflamed by the proximity of Dunblane Cathedral will know what I mean!