Lauren Rossell, the Mission and Outreach Enabler in Chesterfield Methodist Circuit, shares the story of one church which became the first religious organisation to take part in Chesterfield PRIDE.
She writes: “Central Methodist Church in Chesterfield took a leap of faith by attending and contributing at Chesterfield PRIDE. The idea was birthed by Julie Minns, the minister at Central Methodist Church, and Gill Ashton, a member at Central and a local preacher. These are two people who have a passion for seeing the church being welcome to ALL.
The idea was proposed to the church council who, to our delight, readily agreed. The ‘Mission & Vision’ group at Central, a group focused on the future outreach and prospects for the church, have been journeying with the question of what it means to be a welcoming church and what steps we might need to take.
This resulted in a sermon series on the themes: welcoming, invitation, fear and the importance of sharing stories. We are the first religious organisation to be represented at Chesterfield PRIDE, and this made us a little nervous. We didn’t know what to expect – whether we would be; rejected, laughed at, or completely ignored. But despite those fears we went with one message: ‘God Loves Everyone’.
We created a rota for the day and invited people to volunteer with us on the stall and were pleased to have 11 people volunteer to help us, including Julie Minns and members from other churches in the circuit. During the day we gave out stickers with the Dignity and Worth ‘rainbow sheep’ and the caption: Loved By God.
Many of the people we encountered were happy to take one and were willing to wear it openly, despite the majority of them declaring they weren’t of the Christian faith but knowing that if God did exist then he would definitely love them! We gave out biscuits, leaflets for information, and asked one very important question: How can the church make you feel safe and welcome?
The response was nothing short of incredible. We were welcomed with open arms, some were surprised, but many said what a great thing it was for a church to be represented and we were constantly speaking with lots of different people during the course of the day.
Many told us how they appreciated us being there because this is a step towards mending bridges and making God and religion accessible. Many shared stories with us, with the themes of: heartbreak with the church, heartbreak in life, joy with church, hurt with religion, searching for purpose, searching for belonging, seeking to be heard and longing for equality. We had the privilege of praying with a number of individuals and assuring them of God’s love.
We are continuing to journey with how we can become a more welcoming church and feeding back the comments given to us by participants of Pride to assist us.”
Pictured: Members of the group who took part in Pride, plus some of the written messages received during the day.
Thank you Lauren and Chesterfield Methodist Church for sharing your story!