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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007
    Dare to Love - dancing in the face of the evidence
    This week, in preparation for a discussion tomorrow, I've been spending time with James Alison's scintillating essay Worship in a violent world, extracted here:

    Some people of course, do not accept that the coming down of the wall means that the beast is dead. They want to say: no, that's a temporary blip, and we're in charge here. So they turn up grunting and shouting and bullying to try and make it look as though nothing has changed. But it has, and even they are losing faith in the old order. Part of the celebration may be learning to help the apparatchiks of the old order discover themselves a place in the new one. Giving them a soft landing: something the old order, built on revenge and triumph over enemies, couldn't possibly understand. While they're around, of course, your celebration will look like, and be made to look like, dancing in the face of the evidence. And that is what True worship implies: the beginning of the celebration of a new regime even while the old regime hasn't yet grasped the news of its own fall. One of the things which really tickles me, in my own Church, is beginning to celebrate the good news of gay people, just as we are, finding that we really are at the party, and having to be quite gentle with the border guards of the old regime who haven't yet been able to admit that the wall coming down wasn't simply something which happened between Jews and Gentiles long ago, but it just keeps on coming down wherever the apparatchiks try to patch it up and make some people pure and some impure.

    In recent weeks we've been supporting the development of a play by a local writer who has suffered for years through her Church's rejection of her sexuality. Same Church as the one which stripped Alison of his priesthood some time ago. Dare to Love is about the walls coming down in the life of a devout priest who finds love in a relationship with a committed Christian transvestite member of his congregation.

    Anticipating its debut - in one of our church halls, today - has been an anxiety; hysterical local newspaper reports haven't exactly helped. But the sensitive handling of the material by the actors, the sense of fun included, the celebration of faith at the heart of the play, and the greatly encouraging and supportive post-production audience discussion, were a joyous surprise which took me away from gloomily anticipating hassle over this project (which we believe in) to the realisation that even if there is hassle to come, that would only confirm that Dare to Love is a fine and powerful expression of what it looks like to be dancing in the face of the evidence.