Revd Nicholas Bundock
My name is Nick and I’m really looking forward to speaking at the Rainbow Church programme of events. I’ll be joined by an LGBT member of our church called Alex Simms and not only are we looking forward to meeting all of you, we are also excited to see a part of the world that feels a long way from our urban setting here in Didsbury, Manchester.
I’ve been at St James and Emmanuel church since 2005. The church of St James was founded in 1236 and is very beautiful. Emmanuel was built in the 19th century for wealthy mill owners who began moving into the countryside surrounding the expanding ‘Cottonopolis’ of Manchester. You might have heard of Emmanuel as it’s the home studio for the Daily Service on Radio 4. The two churches came together in the 1980s to form one parish. Although broadly evangelical, St James and Emmanuel has always had an inbuilt diversity of opinion and worshipping tradition. The four congregations span everything from Prayer Book Choral Communion to charismatic and contemporary with smatterings of Taizé and Jazz Masses – you name it, we seem to cater for it! This diversity has been both a strength and a weakness, a fatal weakness when it came to sexuality. In 2014 we suffered a terrible tragedy when Lizzie Lowe, the fourteen year old daughter of our treasurer, committed suicide in a patch of farmland near St James. We were scared to shatter our ‘unity in diversity’ by talking about sexuality and in the process we created a context for Lizzie’s despair.
Lizzie was gay and the shame and grief at her death felt by our church was beyond comprehension. Lizzie was convinced that it was impossible to be gay and a Christian. We’d failed to provide a safe place for LGBT people in our church and had failed to have the painful conversations about sexuality and identity that might have provided a safety net for Lizzie in her time of need.
In my talk I am going to share the events around Lizzie’s death, the subsequent findings of the coroner and our journey into full inclusion as an evangelical church. It’s been four years since Lizzie died and in that time we’ve learnt the power of communal repentance and the appalling depths of the wider Church’s homophobia and transphobia. I will share reflections from the journey and hopefully encourage you to keep up the good work and not to despair.
By the way, I love my garden, but don’t get nearly enough time to tend it. I was a scientist before I was a priest. I have a Welsh Cardigan corgi called Jethro. My children spend too much time on computers and my wife loves patchwork and quilting. Alex is one of a small but growing band of male midwives and we’re thrilled to be joining you.