HOPE.

This is a piece about hope.

I have been deliberating for days as to what I should write about for our latest blog piece and the usual multitude of negative options have drifted across my mind. We still have so much to do, so little time, so many that need assistance of one sort or another; surely there must be something amongst the plethora of need that I could reflect upon, theologically muse over, rant about?

Instead, I’ve decided to be hopeful.

It’s not always an easy choice to be hopeful, even for someone who would classify himself as generally quite a happy, positive guy, hope can sometimes be elusive and it often takes work to sit in that state of “hopefulness”.

What then prompts me to have hope, you might ask? Is it the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Gospels; his promise of a future hope, echoed throughout Scripture as an expression of God’s love for Her creation? Is it the tiny shoots of change in countries who have previously been so closed to peace and the challenging path of negotiation over conflict? Is it the charities who work tirelessly in this country to pick up those who have fallen through the social and economic cracks our beloved government has created?

Well yes, it is all of these things, but today it is one thing above all of these things: it is two teenage boys, brave enough to hold hands in a busy London street.

How ridiculous, it could be said, that such a small sign of affection could offer so much hope, a hope which today supersedes all the other global and national examples I have just offered.

I look back to when I was around the age of these teenagers, I most certainly would never have held someone’s hand of the same sex as me, I would not, COULD not have even entertained the notion of being so comfortable with myself and with other’s perception of me to be brave enough to participate in such an act.

You could argue that perhaps the action of these young men was an act only to cover deep insecurity and nervousness, that by holding one another’s hand they weren’t showing bravery but merely seeking to make a display so that they could hide something else – something far deeper than a physical display of affection.

But if we take the most hopeful route, the one which seeks to edify these brave teenagers and encourage them as well as encouraging ourselves, we see in their action a hopeful and bold statement of the now and not yet.

Now it is clear that we still need brave young men and women to be authentically themselves, proudly so and do so acknowledging that their actions may not always assure their safety. Not yet, their hand holding points to a time in which all free in Christ, neither Jew or Gentile, male or female, Syrian or Brit, slave or free, gay, bi, straight or somewhere in between.

Over the last week or so I’ve been privileged to speak at three very different occasions about what it is like to be both gay and Christian. The first was at a school in North London, where I visited as a Stonewall School Role Model and shared with an assembly of 250 14-18 year olds my story and my firm belief that being gay and of faith are not mutually exclusive. I was in the middle of that age bracket only 10 years ago and I would never have been a part of such an assembly, never been exposed to such a positive example of what it means to be gay, never would I have had the chance to ask questions and be given honest answers, and never would my peers have sat as respectfully and as adult-like as the students who I spoke to did.

There is hope, both now and not yet.

The second occasion at which I spoke was towards the end of Bristol Baptist College’s community week. I was asked to offer a Biblical affirmation for same sex marriage and did so, alongside people far more learned than myself and amongst students, most of whom were either my age or older. I was treated as an equal, as someone with insight and experience that others did not have and my voice was heard with no disadvantage set against me.

There is hope, both now and not yet.

My final speaking engagement in this series saw me journey to Pontypridd in Wales, just north of Cardiff. Invited by Affirm (the Baptist LGBT network), I shared my story to ministers and local congregation members and was greeted with warmth, excitement at the retelling of some of Dawn and I’s exploits and tears at the sadness and loss that I have had to overcome to get to this point.

There is hope, both now and not yet.

The bravery of teenagers, the audacity of dissenting voices, the opening of once closed doors and the promise of a future freedom offer us hope, both now and not yet.

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