Sacred Trinity Church's LGBT+ Open table events. Photo credit: taken myself

A church in Salford is hosting monthly Open Table evening services, with a focus on encouraging LGBT+ members of the Christian faith to return to church.

Sacred Trinity Church on Chapel Street, hopes that by demonstrating clearly that LGBT+ people are welcome in their congregation by hosting a specific night inviting them, more people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or of any sexuality or gender identity, will feel welcome at all of their services.

Sacred Trinity Church rector Andy Salmon on their LGBT+ inclusive services. Photo: taken by me
Sacred Trinity Church rector Andy Salmon on their LGBT+ inclusive services. Photo: taken by me

The Anglican church’s Rector, Andy Salmon, hopes that these events will change the false narrative that LGBT+ people are not welcome in Christianity. He said: “The reason we do Open Table is so that people know that they are loved by God. That’s why we do most services that we do; to express our love to God, and be reminded of the fact that God loves us.

“However, in the case of LGBT+ people, quite often, people have been given the impression that God doesn’t love them because of the way they are, and we want to completely refute that. God loves everybody, and accepts us as who we are.

“All of our services are open to everybody, but we do Open Table because some people have the impression that they won’t be welcome, and so we want to make that welcome explicit.”

That warm welcome has been particularly important for people like Jay Neville, who has only recently begun returning to church after realising he was transgender. Rationalising those two parts of his identity has been a difficult journey for Jay, as he recalls: “I’m still making sense of it. I’ve recently returned to Christianity after many years of feeling exiled and rejected, but I have still a lot of personal wounds and pain related to the humans of the church.

“Yet, my personal relationship with God is one of pure love and unconditional acceptance. I am trans, and that is what God has called me to be, and I answered that call – very reluctantly, I took my time about it! But it’s what has brought me home to myself, and the more I commune with God, the more sure I am of that.

“For a long time, I was terrified of rejection, and saw it everywhere because I was so terrified of it. I used to think that that was God’s doing, and I was angry at God, and thought that God hated me. But I realised that I’d probably listened too much to what some humans were saying, and thinking that that was what God was saying. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve done a lot of recovery work around my own mental health, and had a lot of counselling, now, within myself, there feels no contradiction at all between my relationship with God and my gender and sexuality.

Sacred Trinity Church's LGBT+ Pride flag. Photo: taken by me
Sacred Trinity Church’s LGBT+ Pride flag. Photo: taken by me

“Especially now that I’ve come back to Christianity recently and I’ve re-read the stories of the New Testament, I am in absolutely no doubt that Jesus would not reject LGBT+ people – he’s so radical. His words still call into question even the most progressive of outlooks in our society, so there’s no contradiction for me, including LGBT+ people in the church is the bare minimum of what I feel Jesus would have advocated for.”

Though services like this are becoming much more commonplace across all religions, for many young people who are questioning how their religion and their personal identity intertwine, it can still be confronting to feel ostracised from a community you have always been a part of.

When reflecting on the advice he would give to his younger self, Jay says: “I would say, be careful you don’t let it harden your heart. You’re beautiful and loved, and one of God’s children, exactly the same as everybody else is. You will probably feel pain, but it is a human delusion that you can only be religious or LGBT+, and if you stay in an authentic relationship with God, I absolutely know that he will love you, because that’s what he does.

“But also, give yourself time, it’s a really complicated thing. And even though God will love us, we still have to live on Earth, so just don’t let it harden your heart, because I did for a long time, and it’s taken a long time to soften it again.”

Sacred Trinity Church hosts their Open Table services once a month, on every third Sunday, at 7:15pm. The next event is scheduled for the 7th of November. Services and special events are also streamed on the church’s Facebook page.

You can see full details on the church’s website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

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