A special event was held in Brackaville Parish Church, Coalisland on Monday 3rd December 2018,
to think about how families and friends could support children and young people dealing with serious issues of sexuality and how churches and communities might show acceptance and respect for LGBTQ+ people.
The event was organised by ‘justLOVE’ who are a group of young people based in
the parishes of Brackaville, Donaghendry and Ballyclog.
They take their name from their parish mission statement
“Growing God’s love together in and through Jesus Christ”
justLOVE members explained why this issue matters to them and introduced two speakers
from the charity Cara-Friend which supports LGBTQ+ children and young people in Northern Ireland.
The first speaker was Jo MacParland who shared practical tips and information on how to respond when a child or young person has questions around gender or sexual orientation, what to say and do, what not to say or do, how to demonstrate understanding, acceptance and love. Jo emphasised we don’t choose to be gay or straight. She remarked that LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to self-harm and complete suicide than others.
Declan Meehan from Cara-Friend then spent some time exploring how churches and communities might show acceptance and respect for LGBTQ+ people, particularly church youth groups, from which LGBTQ+ young people can feel excluded and isolated if leaders and colleagues are unsupportive, ill-informed or simply silent on this issue.
The Rector the Revd Andrew Rawding chaired a panel discussion and the safe environment encouraged people in the audience to speak. Their contributions were challenging and humbling, moving many to tears.
Among those who attended the event were the Archbishop of Armagh,
the Diocesan Development Officer for Youth and Children’s Ministry, Church of Ireland and Methodist clergy,
people of various denominations and non-church goers.
There has been a longstanding commitment among the bishops of the Anglican Communion
to listen to the experience of people who are same-gender attracted.