The journalist and activist Symon Hill talked at the Meeting House last week about his personal journey. With moving honesty, he spoke of his early days as an enthusiastic Christian when he imbibed the teaching of his church that homosexual activity was condemned by God as a sin. He went on to tell how experience had changed him, and how he had come to a fuller appreciation of the body as God’s creation and of the beautiful variety that is in human beings, an insight that included accepting himself as a bisexual.
He also talked about a literal journey he undertook last year – a walk from Birmingham to London as a ‘pilgrimage of repentance’ for homophobia. This attracted a lot of media attention and led to numerous conversations both in formal meetings and in chance encounters along the way.
One particularly interesting story was of the night when his accommodation arrangements fell through and he was taken in at the last minute by a minister who held very anti-gay views but was committed to the Christian emphasis on the importance of hospitality. At breakfast the next morning he and his host had a deep and intimate conversation. Whilst he didn’t claim that any great miracle happened during that conversation he did feel that it was somewhat transformative as they both were affected by their encounter. If they had met in a public debate they would have taken up opposing positions and scored points against each other, but in that close private encounter they were both able to find a deeper mutual understanding.
This story reflects an important part of what the Meeting House is all about. Its most important work is done through people of all cultures, beliefs and opinions simply coming in, chatting, socialising, becoming friends, and talking about all kinds of issues. It is when we meet as human beings, being ourselves and listening to others that we really grow as people.
The Chaplaincy organised this event as a ‘meeting of minds’ to open up discussion of an important topic. Watch out for further events this term.