LGBT Ministry: A Mustard Seed Begins to Sprout.

Last Sunday, the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, part of the Gospel reading was the parable of the mustard seed.

 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? t is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

(Mark 30 – 32)

In London this past weekend, a mustard seed of LGBT Catholic ministry, planted a few months ago, began to sprout.

When I was reading earlier this year reports of the New Ways Ministry conference in Baltimore, I was frankly envious, just as I was when reading Jim Schnexnayder’s book, “Setting the Table”.  From this side of the Atlantic, my perception is that realistic LGBT ministry takes many forms, supported by a range of organisations.  In addition to Dignity and its local chapters, and explicitly LGBT-welcoming parishes in many parts of the country, the Americans have New Ways Ministry, Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Forunate Families. Underpinned by some supportive documents from the USCCB (dating from the 1980’s) , a number of dioceses and parishes have clear pastoral plans for reaching LGBT Catholics and their families.

In the UK, we have a corresponding set of supportive documents from Cardinal Basil Hume’s time, we have Quest and the Soho Mass  – and what else?

Immediately after the Baltimore conference, I read this, in Francis DeBernardo’s New Ways / Bondings blog, about the “Next Steps” in LGBT ministry.

Do you want to do something to help further LGBT equality in society and the Catholic church but are not sure what you should do or could do?  If so, then you are a candidate for New Ways Ministry’s “Next Steps” program.

“Next Steps” is a weekend program designed to help people plot out a course of practical, feasible actions to further LGBT equality and justice that they can perform in their home communities.  If you are an LGBT person, a family member, a friend, a church minister, this program can help you find out ways to make a difference.

I responded with this short comment -

Any possibility of a “Next Steps” weekend in the UK, sometime?

expecting no more than the possibility of something developing, at some future date in the years ahead. I certainly was not expecting this immediate response, by email:

I’m responding to your question sent to the blog yesterday about the possibility of a “Next Steps” program in the UK.   I am very open to such an opportunity, and it would be possible for me to do so when I’m visiting England this summer for World Pride.

3 months later, Francis is now in the UK for his vacation and visit to World Pride, and on Saturday presented a truncated (one day) version of his program to a diverse group of about 20 people.  Yesterday, a slightly different group met over a most pleasant lunch at the home of Martin Pendergast and Julian Filichowski, where some of the stimulating conversation mulled over the workshop. I will report more later on the detail of the workshop, once I have had more time to digest and process it, but already one thing is clear: this is just the beginning.

The structure and focus of the workshop was entirely action oriented – not “What should or could be done?”, but “What am I going to do, and when?”

 Every one of the participants ended the day with specific plans that they could begin to work on, in their own faith communities. As Frank pointed out, we now have the materials and structure of the workshop – there is nothing to stop us repeating it, with the more usual weekend time frame, and adapted to British circumstances. I am certain that we will take this up and repeat it, specifically for the Soho Masses community – and possibly thereafter, adapt it for other groups as well.

The mustard seed has yet to grow to full maturity – but it has undeniably begun to sprout.

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