Category Archives: Personal / QTC

Prayers, Please!

I had a phone call today from my specialist nurse at Royal Surrey, with the decision taken by the MDT (multidisciplinary team) that’s been assessing my innards, after my most recent CT scan. I’m summoned to the hospital for a Monday meeting with the senior stomach oncologist to discuss the matter, but it seems the essence of the recommendation is to proceed directly to surgery – they’ve already pencilled in a date of 30th September for the op, and an earlier date for pre-operative tests.

GIST scan (NOT mine).
GIST scan (NOT mine).

I’m not having it, and have told them so. I must be in Rome on the first October for the foundation conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll let me fly out the day after major surgery – nor do I think the NHS will cough up for a private air ambulance to Rome. It will be “major” surgery too. Even after the significant shrinkage, the tumour is still pretty big. Anything over 10cm is classified as large (and with it, usually high risk). Mine is down from the original 26 x 20 cm to “only” 18 x 15, which is still much bigger than common or garden “large”.

Continue reading Prayers, Please!

Expanding LGBT Ministry Across Westminster – and Beyond!

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged that the successful model of the Farm Street Masses specifically welcoming LGBTI Catholics be “rolled out” across his Westminster archdiocese, and indeed across “the nation” (in Catholic Church terms, that rather oddly means “England and Wales”. Scotland has a completely independent bishops’ conference, and Northern Ireland falls under the Primate of All Ireland).

I’ve seen some enthusiastic comment elsewhere on the net, and in private correspondence, but I’m not getting too excited, just yet. That’s not because I don’t like the principle: of course I do. Right from the start, my response to the move of the old Soho Masses congregation from Warwick Street to Farm Street was that it would be of great benefit to some of us, but would fall short for others. To be really valuable, it needed to be replicated across many more parishes than just the one rather special case in very special circumstances. I wrote that at the time on my blog, I argued it inside the community and on the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, I wrote it in a letter to (then) Archbishop Nichols, and I said it to him directly, when I met him face to face, after the first Mass in our new home in Mayfair. Of course it’s a good idea. More than that, it’s essential for effective LGBT ministry in the country, the bare minimum that is required.

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The problem is that, “rolling out” the model will not be that simple. It certainly won’t happen, just because the Cardinal will like it to, even with the help of his newly appointed special minister to promote the cause. We need to bear very firmly in mind that the success of Farm Street did not come about because Nichols introduced them – he did not. What he did, was to transfer part of an existing, exceptionally strong congregation, from one location to another. That congregation had been built up over many years, starting from a small group meeting just once a month for a house Mass, before increasing to twice a month, and a move to Dean Street. That growth came initially without any help whatsoever from the archdiocese: the move to Soho was to a supportive Anglican parish, because no Catholic parish was then ready to welcome us.   After settling down in Warwick Street, the continued success and strong growth in the faith life of the community came as a result of our own efforts, with some very hard work by an extensive team. The later move to the Jesuit parish in Mayfair was, in effect, and attempt by Church authorities to co-opt an existing highly successful lay – led community, and draw it closer into its own fold.

There were certainly notable benefits.Those of us that made the move, were absorbed into the wider parish community, with undoubtedly positive results. Those that were unable to make the transition, for whatever reason, were left out in the cold. Replicating the model will just not be possible, because there is simply no other existing LGBT Catholic congregation to be conveniently transferred.   Any similar venture elsewhere, will need to be built up, from scratch.

This is not to say it is impossible. It can be done, and it must be done. The challenge is, working out just how. We know that there are very many LGBT Catholics spread across the diocese who could benefit, and would very much like to participate, but they are indeed, widely dispersed. Unlike the USA, British gay men and lesbians, even in London, are not particularly located in concentrated “gaybourhoods”. Finding the people to make this work, and bringing them together in a particular parish, will not be easy. We also know that there are many supportive priests who would like to co-operate. What we don’t yet know, is whether those priests and their locations, would be appropriate for any embryonic support group to get going. To fully understand the “model” now operating at Farm Street, recall the full history.

To truly “replicate” the pattern would be to begin again at the beginning, with a small group meeting for an exclusively lgbt Mass, building up a community, skills and confidence, before finally making a move into an existing parish, just as the old Soho Mass / Farm Street community did. But I’m pretty certain that is not what Cardinal Nichols is envisaging.

At the time that the St Anne’s congregation moved to Warwick Street, there was a second, much smaller group meeting at a church in the King’s Cross area, who were also absorbed into the new congregation, but somewhat overshadowed by them subsequently.  Perhaps they could be revived, ideally on different dates and a more convenient time, to the twice – weekly Masses at Farm Street.

Or perhaps there are existing parishes with a degree of supportive but low – key, unheralded ministry already in place, that simply need to be strengthened. Perhaps there are supportive priests with no existing LGBT parishioners that they are aware of, who would like to develop such a supportive ministry, and let it grow organically: one of the most successful parish – based ministries in the USA, was in just such a parish where there were no known LGBT people, but had a particularly strong Justice and Peace group, who saw inclusion as intrinsic to their mission. They began an LGBT support group with no LGBT members. But word spread, and the parish began to attract people from the local community who had previously simply not attended any Church, and later others from further afield. The group went from strength to strength, and in the process the parish as a whole grew and prospered.

There are many possible routes to multiplying the number of successful such examples across the diocese, will require hard thinking, work and co-operation between the existing Westminster Diocesan LGBT Pastoral Council, Quest, the Young Adults Group, and sympathetic clergy. I will be doing what I can myself to explore and promote the possibilities, and bring the assorted groups together for some creative thinking leading to specific initiatives.

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Thanks for the support: I needed that

A huge “THANKS” to all those who have contributed in any way to my “So Fund Me” appeal last week, either directly with donations, or by sharing, or in messages of support. I was deeply moved by the swift response, and the generosity showed. In just a few days, I’m already over half way to my target.

I want to stress that those thanks go to ALL my supporters and donors, whether in the form of actual donations large or small, or otherwise. The money is obviously important (that’s the whole point), but equally valuable to me is the simple encouragement and affirmation that it brings. I was touched and uplifted by these, exemplified by some of messages that came with the donations, such as this one:

We’re lucky to have you writing and advocating for us”.

I was on a real emotional high after that – which, it turned out, I really needed yesterday, after a health update at St Luke’s cancer centre. Continue reading Thanks for the support: I needed that

My Ministry is Valuable – So Fund Me!

16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,…

This passage, taken from Jesus’ first recorded public teaching, could almost be taken in modern terminology as as his “mission statement”.

Here is some more from the relevant passage in Isaiah:

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

Isaiah 61:1

This idea of bringing good news to the afflicted, healing broken hearted LGBT Catholics, goes to the heart of what I’ve been trying to do, for some ten years now – almost exactly, since I first attended a “Soho Mass” at St Anne’s, Soho. Continue reading My Ministry is Valuable – So Fund Me!

What About the “Wife – in- Law”?

The English language is flexible, versatile, and adaptable to infinite subtlety.  But still there are concepts and relationships for which we have no words, Here’s an example.

My daughter Barbara has an excellent relationship wouith her mother – in – law, Trish (as do I). A few years ago, after a boozy Christmas lunch on one of my infrequent visits to Johannesburg, I put to Trish this question:

If you, Trish, are my daughter’s mother – in – law;

and I am the father in – law of your son –

Does that make you my WIFE – in – :LAW?

Personal: Scan Results

Ever since I first released news of my tumour, I’ve been overwhelmed by expressions of support and prayers. This has again been the case after writing a little more about it here, earlier this week, with more good wishes for my “recovery”. This seems odd, because even though this thing is technically that dread condition, a cancer – it doesn’t feel that way, at all. In fact, apart from some minor inconvenience, I feel generally much better than I’ve done for months and months.

This is an update on my scan results, which I’ve just posted on the email list for the valuable support group, GIST Support UK Continue reading Personal: Scan Results

“Cancer” (or not): Hearing the News

It’s an extraordinary experience to be told, quite unexpectedly, that you have cancer – or in my case, maybe not. (Is a GIST cancer? That depends on who you speak to). I’ve learned a lot about the condition over the last eight months, including the terminology.

Gist - liferaft
Source – Life raft group ( https://liferaftgroup.org/gist-101/ )

Continue reading “Cancer” (or not): Hearing the News

Meals With a View: Family Joys at Lake Garda

A week ago, I returned from a magical fortnight’s holiday with family in Switzerland and Italy. The background is that as I was under medical advice not to travel to South Africa, my daughter Barbara in Johannesburg decided to bring her family to her sister Robynn in Switzerland (canton Zurich), where I could join them. Then, we all crossed the Alps to Italy, where they had taken a villa in Portese (part of San Felice del Benaco), right on the shore of Lake Garda.
villa-portesina

Personal Deviations: Medical, Technical, Familial, Travel and Political.

For some months now, I’ve not been nearly as active here as I once was.  There are numerous reasons for this. For a long time, I’ve been trying to reassess my priorities and core aim with the site. Was I really wanting to put the bulk of me energy into a regular commentary on the daily news cycle, which in practice is what I had been doing, or a more permanently useful storehouse of resources for LGBT Catholics and other Christians, as I originally set out to do? Continue reading Personal Deviations: Medical, Technical, Familial, Travel and Political.

It’s Not So Hard to Be Married………….

This morning, we did it – converted our existing civil partnership to formal marriage. Not a wedding, no grand celebration: the time for that was 9 years ago, at the civil partnership ceremony. This was just a legal procedure at the Guildford Registrar’s office, costing all of £8.

It’s good to have done it, but I’ve now experienced one conventional, formal marriage lasting 9 years, followed by an informal committed relationship amounting to what was in effect a legally unrecognized common- law marriage (19 years in total), the now defunct civil partnership lasting just under a further 9 years. That first marriage began over 40 years ago. During those four decades, I’ve fathered two children, and supported by my spouses, watched them grow, mature, marry and produce children of their own.   I’ve also gone through grief and bereavement for my own parents and brother, supported by my partner – and supported him through the deaths of his own mother and other family members.

I’ve experienced divorce, and a further painful separation.  My spouse(s) and I have shared and supported each other through myriad joyful celebrations and difficult trials, trivial and serious.  I think I’ve earned enough in practical experience of the realities of marriage, to claim some understanding of what it’s all about.

As I begin this new marriage,and largely agree with Stephen Sondheim,  in “Company” – It’s the little things you share together, that make perfect relationships. (Like Joanne in the video clip above, “I’ve done it three or four times”).

It’s the little things you share together,
Swear together,
Wear together
That make perfect relationships.

The concerts you enjoy together,
Neighbors you annoy together,
Children you destroy together

Becoming a cliche together,
Growing old and gray together
Withering away together
That make marriage a joy.

It’s not so hard to be married
It’s much the simplest of crimes
It’s not so hard to be married
I’ve done it three or four times.