Church welcomes gay community event as part of St Albans Pub Pride

Fr Richard Watson at The Mermaid in St Albans. 

Fr Richard Watson at The Mermaid in St Albans. - Credit: Richard Watson

A St Albans church is hosting the launch party for a series of gay pride events taking place across the city next week. 

The city's  Pub Pride will be kicking off at St Saviours Church on Sandpit Lane on Friday May 27 with an event to celebrate life and love in all its rainbow of colour.

This newspaper spoke to St Saviour's vicar Fr Richard Watson about diversity within Christianity and the relationship between heteronormativity - the assumption that everyone is, or should, be straight - and the church. 

He said: "I have been vicar of St Saviours church for five years now and very early on we discussed how we might be more proactive in terms of supporting LGBTQ+ members of the community as a whole. And offering a true welcome to them. The result of that conversation was that we signed up with Ask For Clive with founder Danny Clare and were the first place of worship to do so allying our commitment with theirs to say that 'everyone is welcome here'.

"Christians have a range of responses to sexuality matters but the Church of England is changing in its response to gay people and I am certain that things will continue to change in the years ahead.

"At St Saviours we take seriously the verse in 1 John that says 'God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them' which is quoted at the beginning of every marriage service. 

"In my understanding it is ludicrous and untenable for the church to deny equality in marriage to same sex couples. 

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"We are very pleased to be welcoming Ask For Clive for the launch of their Pub Pride event, and St Albans should be rightly proud to be the home of what has now become a national event reflecting the change in our society to recognise that love is love and offering a true welcome to all people. 

"For the church the big issue is how we interpret teachings in the light of modern living and understanding. 

"It is very easy for us to pick and choose which bits of the Bible we pick up and run with. Maybe we should pay as much attention to those verses which prohibit the wearing of clothes made from mixed fibres or not eat shellfish."

St Saviours has a mixed congregation and an inclusive statement about weddings and blessings. It states: "Regrettably at the present time we are not legally able to offer marriage in church for same-sex couples, but we believe the Church of England should (and in time will) change its pastoral practice. In the meantime it is possible for any couple to have prayers following a civil partnership or civil marriage."

The vicar explained that in a previous parish other clergy have refused to work with him because of his theological understanding of sexuality.

Venues across St Albans will be opening their doors in celebration of Pub Pride on Friday evening, with many of the city’s landmarks illuminated in rainbow colours including the Museum and Cathedral. There will also be photo stops and other pop-ups around the city centre, and confirmed events include film screenings, pride classic karaoke, community group meet-ups and even rural walks! See pubpride.com for details.