At the moment, my partner and I attend a church 25 miles away from our home.
Why do we travel so far? Because it is one of the few churches in the area we feel comfortable in, one of the few churches who welcome my partner and I as a gay couple, one of the few churches we can happily belong to with both legitimacy and integrity.
However, is it really our ‘home’ church? For all that it’s lovely and the people there are fantastic, I’m not sure.
Lets say for example that tomorrow, Pope Francis has a meeting with all his cardinals and Archbishops, and then gives a press conference to the world’s media. And in that imaginary press conference, he announces that, effective immediately, the Roman Catholic church will welcome married priests, women priests, gay priests, and anyone else of any flavour of gender or sexuality who has a calling, and that its churches will henceforth welcome everyone without exception.
And lets imagine that on our local radio station an hour later, the local Roman Catholic priest from the church just 7 miles away from us comes on the air to say that he is fully behind the Pope’s announcement and will welcome anyone who wants to ‘return to the fold’.
Would our current church still be ‘home’ to us? As sad as I am to admit it, I don’t think it would.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our current church for what it offers us – a church family, a welcome, a chance to share our faith, learn from others and be part of a greater whole. But when I think of ‘church’ in a more general sense, I think of priests in long vestments, I think of clouds of incense wafting their way up to the rafters whilst a choir sings God’s praises in Latin…. then I come down to earth and think of my current church home.
I don’t think that Pope Francis will hold such a press conference, not tomorrow, not next year, nor any time in the next decade. So, I worship as I am permitted, within the human-made strictures placed on me.
But please forgive me if I have a little bit of a yearning for impossible things….