It wasn’t the first wedding on Songs of Praise, but it was the first one I truly felt invited to from my sofa.
Two men getting married in a church. It looked like the wedding I hope for myself in the future.
This weekend, the long-running BBC TV show featured Jamie and Ian getting married at Rutherglen United Reformed Church in Glasgow, Scotland.
The United Reformed Church is one of a growing number of denominations across England, Scotland and Wales in which same-sex weddings can take place. That made it the perfect feature for Songs of Praise, which showcases the diversity of Christian life across Britain alongside those sing-along hymns.
We’ve done something that conveys a sense of God’s love and blessing to people who are often seen as outsiders in the church.
‘We’ve done something that conveys a sense of God’s love and blessing to people who are often seen as outsiders in the church,’ Reverend Andy Braunston said on the show.
This unremarkable display of LGBT and faith inclusion is something the world desperately needs more of, particularly as marriage equality is not yet a reality for those living in Northern Ireland. Stonewall research has found that more than a quarter of LGBT people of faith (27 per cent) think their religious community isn’t welcoming towards LGBT people.
Like many LGBT people of faith, I’ve felt conflict between my sexual orientation and faith identity. Places of worship should be safe spaces where we can bring every part of ourselves, but the exclusion I’ve felt in the past made me reluctant to bring my whole self to church.
I came to realise that I don’t have different identities that conflict with each other.
What helped me overcome my fear of being myself at church was hearing actual messages of love. I came to realise that I don’t have different identities that conflict with each other. Instead, I understood that I’m one, beautiful, God-made human.
Those messages of love came from everywhere. They came from both people of faith and those who aren’t, but who understood how important it was for me to feel that I belonged. They came from LGBT people who felt the same and from allies who were passionate about inclusive faith spaces.
Just four minutes of Songs of Praise added to that representation and gave space to LGBT people of faith.
They also came from what I saw and heard in the media. When the Christian songwriter Vicky Beeching came out, I knew I wasn’t alone. Just four minutes of Songs of Praise added to that representation and gave space to LGBT people of faith, whose voices are so often sidelined in conversations about equality. For me, the decision to feature a same-sex wedding was a reminder that God’s love is there for everyone, because I saw it on my favourite TV show.
Jamie, one of the grooms, relayed what an older congregation member said to him ahead of the wedding: ‘People will change – and don’t underestimate older people, either. They just need to think about it and they’ll get there one day.’
This weekend, Songs of Praise opened up a space for more people to be seen and encouraged others to think about what real inclusion can look like. Thank you.