Pride after the fall

This is a story written by Claire, a member of our Open Table community, which features in the Writing on the Wall anthology, What's Your World Pride Story? which will be launched at Liverpool Pride on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th July.

It may have two cathedrals on a street called Hope but I never expected to find God in Liverpool!

The Open Table group marching at Liverpool Pride  inspired Claire to 'come as you are'

The Open Table group marching at Liverpool Pride  inspired Claire to 'come as you are'

It happened at Pride, of all places, and I don’t mean the placards proclaiming ‘God Hates Fags’. (He should give up smoking then!) I mean the real deal: a religious revelation on the flyover as we marched back to St George’s Hall.

Maybe that’s the danger of marching behind St Bride's but who knew Christianity was so infectious! All I knew was I suddenly had an itch I needed to scratch.

I could’ve ignored it; told myself I was mad but, no, off to St Bride's I went.

It is a foreboding giant of a building; all Roman columns and marble. Not being able to see inside, I almost lost my nerve.

But inside, I found reassurance in the wooden pews and the smell of damp. This was Church as nostalgic childhood memories.

Even so, my head was filled with questions: Would they try to convert me? Tell me I was a sinner? Lay on hands? If they did, I’d be out of there like a rocket!

But, no, this is Scouseland and so I got a traditional, open hearted, Scouse welcome (even though one of them, Warren, is Australian!)

Then we broke bread and shared a meal. I may’ve only half meant it at the time but I followed the ritual all the same:

  1. Pass the tasteless bit of bread around
  2. Try to digest it without gagging for water
  3. Drink the wine that, disappointingly, is actually non-alcoholic grape juice
  4. Take care to wipe the cup with the holy napkin so you don’t pass your germs around
  5. Be all polite and genteel (Some call it “reverence”)
  6. Say a prayer or two
  7. Remember you do this in remembrance of Jesus

I found out later this is called an Agape meal, after one of the Greek words for love. It was all very solemn but the conversation before and after wasn’t and the proper grub was proper good too!

I’ve had many memorable times around that table now. Like the time one of us bemoaned the lack of a decent chippy (apparently, it’s to do with the fat the Chinese use) and we all chipped in with our faves. Mine’s Yanni’s opposite Debenham’s – they do a mean veggie burger and chips. Maybe it’s the fat the Greeks use?

Then there was the time Kieran toasted the “saltiness” of folk only for me to then say “fuck” – in the house of God, for fuck sake! But that’s what I really like about St Bride's: I don’t need to mind my Ps and Qs. Their motto is 'Come As You Are' (cue Nirvana song) and I do. I go exactly as I am. As Warren jokes, they’re so tolerant, they even welcome Tories!

Almost a year’s passed by now. I’ve even been to ‘Christianity classes’ and lately bought a Bible. God knows what my hubby, John, would have thought of that! (Probably!) We always used to chuck The Bible on top of the wardrobe when we stayed in hotels. Now I have it beside me on the sofa. But if John’s death proved anything to me, it’s that I can’t predict the future.

Who knew I would find God at Pride? Come to that, who knew I would find pride in God?

Thanks to Claire for this extraordinary personal testimony!

Since the city’s official LGBT+ Pride festival began in 2010, members of St Bride’s and Open Table have been a positive Christian presence. This year we are marching with Liverpool Pride’s new patron, Bishop Paul Bayes, and members of other churches too. The march leaves at midday from St George's Hall (gathering from 10.30am for speeches and entertainment) and will finish back at St John's Gardens around 1.15pm. We will have a stall in the community tent on both Saturday and Sunday, and will round off the weekend with a special Post-Pride Open Table service on the Sunday evening at 6.30pm. If you would like to take part, See Warren or Kieran or email opentablelgbt@gmail.com.