The Village MCC is a church that’s rooted in the LGBT+ communities, called to serve those same communities. How come? There are lots of churches that welcome LGBT+ people to varying degrees. Why would God call us to provide a church that has such a strong identity? After all some of us don’t identify as LGBT. Some of us are straight and cis gendered.
This year MCC is 50 years old, and we’ll be celebrating later in the year. Despite all of the cultural and religious changes that have happened in many places I think MCC is needed as much now as it ever was. I could list a dozen different reasons why but today I want to explore one you that you might not have considered, and it’s about both mental and spiritual health.
One of my favorite saints, st. Rita Mae Brown said “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at you 3 best friends. If they’re ok then it’s you.” Long ago I realised it was me but it took me a while to unravel it all.
One thing many of us who are LGBT and come to MCC have in common is that we suffer to varying degrees with PTSD. Even if you grew up in a loving home and you had a relatively happy childhood, with loving parents, you still probably grew up in a society where every subliminal media message was set to a backdrop of heterosexism and stereotyped gender models. When everything around you suggests that there’s something wrong with you for being different. Over time it causes PTSD.
Now, please don’t think that I’m not taking ptsd seriously, because it’s a serious condition and it affects people in lots of different ways, some more debilitating than others. And if you suffer a specific abuse on top of being LGBT you may be diagnosed with CPTSD which is really difficult to live with, and to treat – as some of us know.
But one thing all suffers come to realise is that PTSD does not get better on it’s own, it gets worse. So, even if we don’t have CPTSD, and we can function well in the world, at some point we realise that something’s wrong. And if it’s been caused by the drip drip of heterosexism and stereotyped gender models then being in a church that’s patriachal, heterosexist, and cis gendered is not going to help us get any better. In fact we’d get worse.
So after a while we realise that we’re certainly not happy and begin seeking out people and places that will affirm our identity. In my day it was a gay bar, a sauna, a support group, and MCC.
At the bar, the sauna, and the support group, I learned that there were people just like me who were completely comfortable with who they are. At MCC I learned that God loves me. Not in some passive ‘God loves everybody’ kind of way; or generally like ‘I love Ice Cream’. I learned that God was in love with me.
At MCC you find out that God is in love with a gay man, that God is in love a lesbian woman, God is in love someone who is bisexual, someone who is heterosexual, and someone who is asexual. God is in love with a man, a woman, a non binary person, a trans person, and if I’ve left you out you need to know that God is in love with you too.
That’s the message that Jesus brings us. When you choose to die for someone it’s personal. No one has greater love than this, that they should give up their life for their friend.
So you begin to learn that you’re OK, which is a long journey.
I grew up in the North East of England and there was nothing subtle about the homophobia I experienced there.
But as I started to realise that I was Ok I began to understand that when people called LGBT people faggot, or puff, or dyke, or queer, or tranny, or bent, or whatever term they used to abuse, that I had been affected, and that I was a completely innocent victim.
And if your experiences were anything like mine then I can bet that for a time you thought, because of who you are, that you were at least just a little bit responsible. Because of what you were you were at least a little bit at fault. That’s not rational thought, that’s PTSD.
So, if you ever suffered homophobia, or transphobia, or any other kind of hate, it’s important to learn that you were never responsible. The people who hurt you were abusers and they were wrong. God made you the way you are, you could no more change that than a lepard change it’s spots.
The way they are, the abusers, was formed through culture, religion, patriachy, selfishness, ignorance, and often more abuse. You were the one living in the truth, they simply couldn’t see it.
So you start talking to others like you who are also on a Spiritual path and you begin to be validated. You start to recognise what you’ve had to live with for what it is.
And once the penny really drops, and we realise it’s not us that’s the problem, we can start to see ourselves as seperate and distinct from the events that damaged us – which is really important for healing. We start to see the truth.
One day I was walking down the Strand when a group of four guys walked by me. They were laughing and joking, and then out of the blue the one nearest me said ‘Fag’ and hit me in the face. I had blood all over my new jacket. Worse than that, I felt guilty.
I thought I deserved it because I was gay. Not true. I was attacked because they chose to abuse me in order to feed some need in themselves.
In church I heard that LGBt people were definitely not made in God’s image. Not true. I am made in God’s image, just not their image of God.
I was led to believe that God didn’t want me because I was LGBT. Not true. I was rejected because the people around me were ignorant and afraid.
What happened to you me not because of me, it was because of them
What’s happened to you was not because of you, it was because of them.
The people who did these things were wrong – most not even understanding that they were abusers. In truth it wasn’t about you or me, the abuse was never about us, it was about them. We were the victims – plain and simple.
So here in community we begin to heal. We start to see abuse as something that happened to us and not because of us. We begin to understand that we were never the problem and we start to see ourselves, and the world, through a very different lens.
Instead of the emotional flashbacks that cause us to crash, we start to recognise what’s going on and start being gentle with ourselves. We stop compounding our ptsd with negative self talk and we begin to heal.
Instead of accepting abuse we see it for what it is and call it what it is.
We start to look after ourselves and we start to understand.
When it’s said that Jesus saves, you’d better believe it, because if you’d told me that I would one day be grateful for being Gay I’d have thought you were nuts, but I am so glad that I’m gay. And even though the world can still be a crappy place, where crappy things happen, I am so grateful to God.
In Romans 5:3-5 Paul says We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with their love.
The Apostle Paul is talking from experience. He was trained from infancy that it was right to kill someone if their beliefs were not in line. Seriously, he was a murdering Pharisee. He was there when Stephen was stoned to death. In the book of Acts we read that he not only approved of the stoning, but that he would drag men and women out of their houses and send them to jail to be tried. Many would end up like Stephen.
Only after his experience on the road to Damascus did he begin to understand that life was so much more than he’d throught. He met Jesus, realised who and what Christ was, and how damaged and dangerous he’d become. Everything he’d done was out of duty. Nothing was done out of love.
1 Cor 13.
Where there is deep and abiding love, there is intimacy. Where there is intimacy there is vulnerability. When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable we begin to heal. The ‘Good news’ that we speak about isn’t just some story, it’s true, and it’s alive.
Here at the village there is a space where we can become the healing hands of Christ for each other. We begin to understand why things like inclusive language are important, why queerying Christianity is important, why this is important.
If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us we become a loving catalyst for each other, and very slowly we start to heal, very slowly we become whole. We start to live the life that Jesus talked about John 10:10 when he said The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.
We need MCC as much now as we ever have. I’ve met many people who thought they had the right to steal my life, and I actually thought they had the right to.
I think that the world needs MCC as much now as it ever has. I believe that God has called us to this for many different reasons, but the greatest of these is quite simply because God Loves us and wants us to be happy.
God is so in love with you, and God is alive in your life. You know how I know? You’re here. Amen.