Let me tell you the story of the two best men I know and the radical inclusion that breaks all the rules.
Clive and John are the most loving couple, the most gorgeous of men and I love them both to bits.
Clive has been, until Friday in fact, a church of England vicar. He’s the man who welcomed me in to St Agnes’s Church with arms wide open and introduced me to the congregation as the next EL James. What really touched me was as soon as that first service I attended was over, Clive dragged me off to meet John, his partner. His pride, his love was so obvious and I found it so sweet that he was so eager to introduce me to his man.
Clive is a fella with a big personality, a big voice (he sings beautifully!) and a big ol’ sparkly smile. He has brought a radical inclusion to St Agnes that means any person entering the door will be welcomed, that any group who’d like to use our space is welcome, that the love that is preached is also thoroughly practised. He has been an amazing vicar. Who swears, shouts and hugs. He also makes sure services and meetings are kept short and to the point. Awesome guy.
John, is the quieter of the two but he is always in the background making things happen. Brewing coffee, moving chairs, watering plants, John is always there making stuff work. My first proper interaction with John was one evening when I’d arrived early for a meeting. I was sat on the bench just in front of church watching the birds in the garden when John came round with a watering can and a smile.
We ended up sat together for quite a while discussing all kinds of things from the peace of the garden, darleks and the way people sit on buses. It was a mundane conversation but I think it was the moment I went from liking the church to feeling I was really a part of it. John might not be front of house but he is as much a part of the radical inclusion as anyone else.
And this is, I’m afraid, where the tale takes a sad turn. As much as Clive and John loved each other, as much as they were allowed to live together there’s a whole world of red tape and rules that say they cannot be married because of Clive’s vocation. Why? Well, I was going to type God only knows but it isn’t difficult to work out. It is fear. It is fear of change, a fear of becoming something other than the church that has ‘always’ been.
The church has evolved and it has to continue to evolve to keep going. It has got to get over itself, it has got to upset a few homophobic, hard hearted folk and walk the walk. Love is Love and anyone who loves another should be able to marry in a church if they so chose. I am sad and I am angry that the church organization has forced the best vicar I know out of a job so he can marry the man he loves. That is just so wrong.
But Clive has given up his position as vicar to marry his beloved. I was there on Saturday as a church full of people celebrated their love. It was a wedding for all intents and purposes. St Agnes’s was bursting at the seems with people of all ages, colours, sexualities, beliefs and you know what? Not a one of them was worried, challenged, upset or angry about it. Every person in there (and there were over 200 easily) were happy to see Clive and John exchange vows and be blessed together in marriage. It was beautiful. It was an expression of radical inclusion that will be remembered fondly for years to come.
I wrote a poem to celebrate this beautiful moment. Our church is also known as the tapestry and that was the inspiration for this poem:
Congratulations Clive and John, I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey through life together. I am very proud of you both and happy to count you as friends.