After an introductory session on Friday evening and prayers on Saturday morning, Sharon introduced the
first session by pointing out that many churches do not allow gay couples to join marriage preparation classes and that the equivalent resources do not exist within the gay community.
The twenty six of us gathered together at Holland House were privileged to receive a well thought through presentation which had been formulated to provide pastoral help to those approaching a Civil Partnership. There were three sessions during Saturday, each of which included a talk, questions in small groups and feedback to the full group.
The first talk entitled, “Sacrifice: Are you prepared to pay the price?” covered the issues involved in building strong foundations for a relationship, namely selecting the right person, choosing the right time to make a commitment, and constantly reconnecting with your partner.
Sharon pointed out that the basis of a healthy relationship needs to be loyalty and she encouraged us to aim higher than bargaining or contracts. She described this as the covenant loyalty and love (“hesed” in the Old Testament) that Ruth spoke to Naomi (Ruth 1: 16-17) and that God asks of his people (Micah 6:8). Sadly not all relationships work out and two reasons were given for leaving a relationship, namely allowing the other person to say good bye, and harmful behaviours e.g. co-dependency, violence or drug dependency.
The second talk was entitled, “Expectations: How high is your pedestal?” This talk was beautifully rooted in the hymn to love in 1 Cor
13: 1-8 and the story of the woman at the well in John 4, who Sharon described as a woman who was still looking for that special something or
someone, and found it in the Living Water of Jesus. This was, however, also a very practical session, with advice such as:
After some free time in the afternoon, the last talk was entitled, “Communication: Can you hear me?” Sharon challenged us to see how we love our spouse as the acid test of our faith. She directed us to 1 John 4: 7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love”.
We were introduced to the five languages of love: words of affirmation,quality time, giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. These
were introduced and investigated further during the discussion. There was also practical advice on dealing with anger, including acknowledging
your anger, refraining from speech during the initial rush, and ‘uncorking the bottle’ or learning to vent anger productively.
In the evening we watched a 15 minute DVD which introduced the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups, followed by a film entitled Prayer for Bobby. The latter told the story of a gay teenager growing up in a conservative Christian home in
the US; the events leading to him leaving home and his eventual suicide; and the journey of his mother following his death from firmly holding a
traditional interpretation of the bible on homosexuality, through to actively campaigning for gay rights. I don’t think that there was a dry eye
in the room, but the lights were appropriately low!
After the second of two well thought through prayer times, Sunday morning included a meeting to consider committee matters which updated us on both EF and other gay Christian groups, and a communion service in which Sharon encouraged us to live lives of servanthood. The greatest
among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Mat 23: 11-12)
After yet another wonderful meal we went our separate ways. So, what are my own reflections after my first EF weekend?
First of all, I felt warmly welcomed by the group. It was good both to meet new people and to see some familiar faces. I had a number of
conversations with people that I found enriching and enlightening. Further, I would add to that the fact that about one third of the group were
women, which is a refreshingly high (if sadly low) proportion for such a group, and I was heartened by a number of conversations which that
The input was thought provoking and at times encouraging or challenging. Not being in a relationship it still gave me a lot to ponder and led to
some specific thoughts in respect to my friendships. More than that though, my reflection on the weekend is that, along with a number of other events I have attended recently, it has helped me to come to a place of greater clarity in my thinking about the next steps for me in the process of ‘coming out’ and enabled me to feel that those steps are possible.
All of that said, at the end of the day it was great to sit back in a comfortable seat, beverage in hand and have a good laugh with convivial
Written by a first-time conference attender