Q: When did you meet?
A Chris: We met in March 2007. I was in the process of serving out my notice in my current job and was due to start my new job in a couple of weeks’ time and strangely it turned out that I was going to work for the same company as Simon (in the same location and office!)
Q: You have been living together since….?
A Both: We have been living together for nearly 7years.
Q: Would you describe your parish as gay-friendly or gay-hostile?
A Simon: I have been in the parish from when I was married and the children and I were well known in the Parish especially through the children’s school. I had envisaged that I would attend Mass and disappear each week and not get too involved. I went through a difficult period where I struggled to be open about myself to others in the parish. Over time, I spoke to the parish priest who was very supportive and helped me to let the secret out to other members of the parish. When the kids stayed we went to Mass together.
Gradually, we have told more people about us and became more open as the situations have arisen and we have always had a positive response. Overwhelmingly, we have found people to be very positive, friendly and supportive and this includes our current and previous priest.
Q: Are you active in your local parish and, if so, in what ways?
A We are involved in all sorts of activities in the Church. Simon is a member of the parish council (along with another openly gay man). Simon does the website for the parish and a neighbouring parish in the diocese and he is also the Altar Server co-ordinator for the two churches in the parish. Chris is the Chair of the finance committee and prepares the parish accounts (and I am also on the Sunday tea rota!). We always attend Mass and this is important in itself and also to meet with other members of the community and enjoy the social aspect. We like to attend as many church events as we can get to (we came second in the Epiphany quiz night!)
Q You are both converts to Catholicism. What attracted you to the faith?
A Simon: I always had a spiritual side as a young person, a feeling that there was more meaning to life that just the material. I lived with my Grandmother in my later teens in the shadow of the main Derby Catholic church and often visited to pray; it was always open. I drifted away as I got older, but ended up marrying a Catholic and getting married at that very church.
During the process of preparation we both went to a RCIA group at the convent as well as the marriage preparation classes. Although I never made any commitments we went to Mass infrequently over the ensuing years and I suppose on the breakdown of my marriage the Catholic Church was what I had come to know but I felt outside and alien from it. I was taking the children to Mass to bring them up as good Catholics but didn’t feel part of the community myself – a Christian but not part of the Christian family such that I could take communion in the Anglican Church but not in the Catholic Church with my children. Following discussions with the parish priest I joined the RCIA group and went through the process to become a Catholic at the Easter Vigil Mass.
Chris: Initially, I wanted to support Simon in taking the children and show a united approach that going to Mass was important so I started going soon after we met. It was a journey for me as I had not been Christened/Baptised and not a regular in church. It became more and more important and my faith grew. As we became more integrated in the community and more able to come out I felt more comfortable within the parish and decided a couple of years ago to go through the RCIA programme and was baptised, confirmed and received my first communion at the Easter Vigil Mass in 2013.
Q Simon, you were previously married and have children. How did they react to the news that you are gay or would you rather identify yourself as bisexual?
A Initially they reacted very positively and supportively. The age range at the time was between 7 and 13 and so a different approach to each was necessary and the response very complex. Coming out to my children was less challenging than with other members of my close and extended family. The sadness of this particular part of mine and their journey is the bitterness and homophobia of other members of the family that had a profound impact on them and therefore our relationships at various points. Sometimes I have been at rock bottom but at other times we have had nothing but joy and happiness. In terms of my sexuality I would identify as a gay male.
Q Chris, how did Simon’s children respond to the news that you are their Dad’s partner?
A Initially their reaction was very positive. The initial meetings were carefully arranged. We were both very sensitive about their feelings and extremely cautious about taking things very slowly. At particular times the relationship became very troubled and certain influences within the children’s lives made the relationships strained at times.
Q What changes would you like to see in the Church’s teaching on sexuality?
A Simon: I have attended so many gay Catholic and ecumenical gay events where revolutionary theologies are talked about. Interesting as they are, for me I don’t seek any revolution. I am not interested in turning the Church upside down. I don’t care whether we have High Mass, Latin Mass, lacy cottas or polyester chasubles! What I really would like to see is gay people respected, honoured and valued just the same as everybody else. That’s the cornerstone of my hope.
Chris: I would like to see a sea change in the Church’s teaching and approach to LGBT people; a Church in which LGBT people are honoured and respected irrelevant of the sex of their partner. We can but hope!
Q How do you see the role of Quest developing in what, for the lifetime of the present pontificate at least, seems to be a more pastoral approach to us?
A We’d love to see Quest becoming more engaged with young gay Catholic people to help them see that there is real faith and a place for them within the Church. For too many it is too difficult and they may not see a way through for themselves. We would like Quest to continue to encourage the Church to give more room and space to gay people within the Church.
Q What is the good news that we can proclaim to our LGBT sisters/brothers of faith or none?
A The good news is that in our experience the Church doesn’t hate gay people. The body of Christ, you and I, is made up of real humans who have Christ’s love to share. The good news is that the hierarchy represents only one voice within the Church.