Hannah Grivell reflects on Christ Church Belper's involvement in the town's first Pride festival.
As soon as I heard that Belper was hosting its own Pride event, I knew that Christ Church had to be involved.
Snowballing from a small picnic planned in the memorial gardens to the town-wide event it became as interest grew, Pride in Belper presented a fantastic opportunity for us to spread Christ’s redeeming message of love and acceptance to a community who had, directly or indirectly, often had painful experiences with the church.
This was in line with our mission as an Inclusive Church, which we signed up for in November 2017. Inclusive Church is a network of churches, groups and individuals uniting together around a shared vision:
"We believe in inclusive Church - a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”
The celebrations kicked off, like most Prides, with a parade—but this being Belper, it was far more fitting for this to be a ‘Strutt’ down from the marketplace, along King Street, then back up to the memorial gardens. Crowds lined the streets, with people leaving shops to watch the Strutt—even mid-haircut!
We were grateful to have been allocated a stand in a prominent position—as were the Unitarian Church and the Quakers—to ensure that the healing message that God’s love does not discriminate was front and centre.
This was a deliberate move by the organisers which not only allowed us to have many conversations with all kinds of people, it also meant that our sign quoting 1 John 4:16—“God is love. Those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them”—was unmissable by all walking by, with some stopping just to photograph it.
We encouraged any who visited the stand to write names or prayers on a second sign with the word ‘LOVE’ written out, which a truly touching number of people chose to, and our intercessions the following day were centred on holding each of these people and situations in prayer.
Our shirts, provided by One Body One Faith who run the Christians at Pride movement, also proved a valuable witness and meant that even away from the stand people would stop us to ask questions or to simply thank us for being there.
With around 2,000 people estimated to have attended, the reaction we received was overwhelmingly positive, though even the most heartwarming reactions to people receiving the message that they are loved and accepted for who they are carried an undertone of sadness for the lifetime of alienation, rejection and secrecy that this revelation betrayed.
We will continue to carry the stories and situations we heard in our hearts and prayers, and hope that the spectacular success of the festival is the spark for wider change and growth in the church.
This feature was originally published in Issue 6 of Together Magazine