Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Service of my Love - Jim Cotter's liturgy for the blessing of Civil Partnerships

Jim Cotter has written a liturgical and pastoral handbook as a resource for the celebration and blessing of Civil Partnerships. It’s available for £10 from Cairns Publications, Gernant, Aberdaron, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, LL53 8BG: tel/fax: +44 (0)1758 760296:

Jim introduced the book at a meeting I attended on Monday. This is the second book published this Autumn filling a critical gap in the LGBT Christian market place, the other being 'Living It Out'.

The Service of My Love contains:
A working text for a ceremony of commitment and blessing
A text for a celebration of Holy Communion in the context of a blessing
A service of prayer in church
Supplementary resources, including prayers and hymns

Jim begins the book with a pastoral perspective, followed by some excerpts from the personal experience of Jim’s own life story. The next chapter, ‘A vicar’s dilemma: a ministerial perspective’, describes Jim’s recent experience in Aberdaron where he is now the parish priest, successor to the poet R S Thomas.

Jim writes that in recent months he has tried to put himself in the shoes of a Christian in Northern Nigeria, in Kaduna or Kano, cities he visited in 1965 during a year with VSO. Christians there have had their churches burnt down because of the increasing acceptance in western societies, and more slowly, in the institutions of Christianity, of lesbian and gay relationships, something inconceivable to people whose identity is found in a close-knit, patriarchal, hierarchical extended family.

In ‘A Communion at odds, Jim explores an ecclesiastical and theological persective. He writes that: “When an archbishop tells me that, as an ordained member of the Church, I cannot celebrate and bless a civil partnership in a church, but that I can argue for a change that would allow that, it frankly feels both patronising and chilling.” The archbishop in question is, I think, Barry Morgan, patron of Changing Attitude.

A brief chapter, ‘An undoubted good? An ethical perspective’, follows, and then the material that most people will buy the book for, the liturgical material for blessing Civil Partnerships. Much of it has been published previously in various places by Jim, but it is here gathered together and rewritten as a resource from which people can construct their own liturgy.

Changing Attitude is among the many individuals and groups who helped sponsor the book. The list of sponsors towards the end, and the list of couples to whom the book is dedicated, are roll calls of Christians who are faithful followers of Jesus and courageous prophets to the church, following in Jim’s own footsteps.

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