A Safe and Sacred Space: An Oasis for LGBTQ Worshippers in Manchester, UK

The Deacon Travels: September 2013

In September, I was very fortunate to be the guest of Father Kevin Crinks, who had visited us in friary earlier in the year. His home in the vicarage in Leigh, UK (Diocese of Manchester), was the base for our travels in Northern England. A real high point of my visit was the monthly Eucharist for LGBTQ parishioners at St. Chrysostom parish church in Manchester.

This communion service has been going on for the past 5 years and has a small faithful congregation which include regular Sunday congregants and students from the local university. St. Chrysostom is an Anglo­Catholic parish. The building is several hundred years old and the inside is a bit shabby, but full of holy grandeur. Father Chris, the cleric in charge of this service, lovingly cares for his flock and sees that everything needed is there and everyone’s needs are met.

And what is striking is the way the interior has been modified to meet the needs of it’s diverse congregation. Pews have been moved to create a child and parent friendly place while still allowing families to fully participate in worship. There are 2 living room style areas in the nave that welcome young adults and host small groups. There is also a tea room in the back to warm the tummy as well as facilitate interaction between worshippers. And although they could use an infusion of cash to upgrade the nave and the sanctuary, the church has chosen to invest their money into two state of art modern, all the bells and whistles bathrooms (bigger and in better shape than my first apartment!). It is clear that the priority of this congregation is the needs of the people they serve. There are diverse social ministries going on including religious education for school children; pastoral care for university students and care for immigrants as well as the LGBTQ community.

Father Kevin was the guest presider and the Rev. Rachel Mann preached. Rachel, as a trans person and an Anglican priest, was able to take the readings and connect them to the everyday experience of the worshippers attending and the prayers of the people included the needs and concerns of the congregation and of the world (there was a prayer vigil for Syria right before the service). The liturgy otherwise was totally Church of England.

After the service we joined several of the congregants and clergy for dinner and fellowship together in Manchester’s Canal Street area. When I asked why the congregation continued to need a special service independent of the usual Sunday fare, the answer was that the service particularly served trans persons at different stages in their transition.

“It is rarely comfortable for folks to feel like themselves in a Sunday morning congregation”, one parishioner explained. And while they do participate on a Sunday morning, they continue to be faithful to this service and helping new seekers feel comfortable in worship.

I was very impressed by the commitment of this parish and moved by the love and spirituality that cling to the walls of this old church. I could work there. It truly is an oasis.

The Rev. Diana Wheeler, TSSF

Deacon, Oasis California

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