Fr. Philip Ritchie explains why you will feel at HOME in All Saints Church, on the corner of The Drive and Eaton Road in Hove, and invites couples to reaffirm their marriage promises on Valentine’s Day.
LAST OCTOBER we started a new informal worship service at All Saints in Hove called ‘HOME’. The word ‘inclusive’ is heavily overused but we wanted to put together a service where all members of the community would feel welcomed, affirmed and celebrated.
At HOME we always begin by welcoming everybody, including members of the LGBTI community. The service itself is informal, which is a new departure for All Saints. Our ‘traditional service’ is equally welcoming but we felt we needed to develop a service which actively affirmed the diversity of our local community.
HOME begins at 11.45 a.m. on Sundays in the side chapel of this vast church. It’s a mix of contemporary praise songs, hymns, prayers and a talk. We also include a ‘witness’ spot where we get to hear a bit more about people’s individual journeys. Often it’s the struggles in people’s lives and how they cope with them that are most touching and revealing.
We want HOME to be a place where people are able to share how they feel about life, about God and about the Church. People often struggle, particularly with the institution of the Church, and can be surprised to hear that it is a struggle we share. Feeling like a square peg in a round hole is for me a common experience of life in the church so I really value being able to sing, pray and talk alongside others who have similar experiences.
We want HOME to build on the work already going on at All Saints with young people in our youth club, with young families in Messy Church, with the homeless and vulnerably housed at the Night Shelter, and at our monthly free Sunday lunch.
Initially we drew some of our ideas from a wonderful church in San Francisco called Glide Memorial Church. They call themselves ‘A radically inclusive, just and loving church’ and they even have a ‘Drag Show Fundraiser’ in the Spring. I know some people might think it slightly mad bringing a little bit of San Francisco to Hove, but why not?
We’re not a big community – we get between 30 and 50 people coming along – but to me it does feel like an inclusive, loving and generous community. I guess All Saints can be seen as quite a traditional church community but some of us wanted to take a step outside of trad church and see if we could just pray, sing and talk together in love, and be a community where the labels and the cultural baggage people give us can be left at the door.
‘Celebrating Love’ @HOME
This Valentine’s weekend we are inviting couples (LGBTI/Straight) to come and reaffirm the promises that they made to each other at their wedding or Civil Partnership ceremonies. We wanted to have an opportunity to celebrate all relationships and the many blessings that people have given each other.
We hope that people will feel able to come and join us. If you are able to come email: email@example.com. People are welcome to come along at any time.
At our service we say that everybody is welcome, we don’t want you to check your baggage at the door… we don’t want you to dress a certain way, look a certain way… be a certain way. This is a come-as-you-are party! We feel that we have ‘caught’ some of our joy and inclusivity from the LGBTI community, that the LGBTI community is a gift not only to the City but to the Church.
Here at All Saints we say there are no strangers – just brothers and sisters who are meeting for the first time.
Phil Ritchie, Vicar, All Saints, Hove.