The last few weeks have seen people of faith mark significant annual festivals.
The last few weeks have seen people of faith mark significant annual festivals. Pesach, Lent and Easter, Ramadan and Eid, and Beltane to name just a few. These are usually times for people to join together, to share food and worship, and to feel connected as a community. But this year, celebrations have had to change due to lockdown and restrictions on public meetings or visiting family.
As a member of Stonewall’s staff faith and belief network, I wanted to find out how other LGBT people of faith were managing lockdown and what was sustaining them. But I also discovered how their experiences have something to offer us all.
What difference has lockdown made to how you practice your faith?
“I think that my faith is what's most been impacted by lockdown. Being a Jew is about being part of a community. It's very hard to be a Jew in isolation, without access to my typical routine of synagogue on Shabbat. Pesach was particularly hard, as I'm currently staying with my partner's family who aren't Jewish. While they would have been happy to have a proper Seder, it didn't feel the same and the week passed mostly unobserved.” (Sascha)
Church, which in the past I rarely felt brave enough to attend, is now coming to my home.
“Attending church has always been difficult for me, and often painful, as I have dealt with exclusion from churches not only as a queer Christian but as a disabled Christian too. In some ways, lockdown hasn’t changed much for me. In other ways, it has changed everything. My local church has been the one bright spot in this difficult time, while I’m completely self-isolating because I’m high risk. Church, which in the past I rarely felt brave enough to attend, is now coming to my home. No steps or closed doors bar the way to worship anymore. And being autistic during a streamed Sunday service is much easier than being in a physical church.” (Naomi)
“As a Pagan, community is very important to the way I celebrate, so being apart has been difficult. Celebrating Beltane via video call was odd, but seeing everyone in their houses, with candles instead of a fire, was quite special. Having a nature-based faith, and not being able to get out in nature is challenging. I am lucky to have access to a garden, to grow things and feel the seasonal shift. When it’s safe to do so, I’m looking forward to getting out into the hills, the woods, and lochs and sharing that with folk from my community, even if we have to keep two metres apart.” (Kathryn)
“Lockdown hasn't affected me personally as much in terms of how I worship, however it has made me seek more virtual connection than normal. What's been more challenging during Ramadan is not being able to move freely or to share experiences with fellow Muslims who may also be fasting. Eid is normally a time of being around family and friends, visiting one another's houses and eating a lot of food! So having to spend Eid alone, would have been very difficult for some.” (Farina)
What can LGBT people of faith offer to wider faith communities, or LGBT people, struggling with lockdown or isolation?
LGBT people of faith offer hope, a way to connect with God on a level that takes people away from lockdown.
“LGBT people of faith offer hope, a way to connect with God on a level that takes people away from lockdown and all it brings. We also offer spirituality and opportunities for people to take their mind off work, mental health stresses and any other restrictions they may be facing. I’m involved with [LGBT Muslim group] Hidayah, who have been offering a valuable online space during this time, including a virtual Iftar, film nights and an online informative session on the importance of Ramadan.” (Farina)
“I think LGBT people of faith offer perspective in how to handle difficult circumstances. I find solace in seeing faith groups organising food for NHS workers, and planning contributions to online Pride celebrations. There is strength in the intersectionality of LGBT people of faith, and the manifests in an openness and willingness to help our wider communities during this crisis.” (Kathryn)