From it’s earliest days St Chrysostom’s church has served a parish of wide and constantly changing variety. The church has welcomed people from different backgrounds, countries and ethnicities. St Chrysostom’s was one of the first churches in England to have a black reader (then called lay reader), and we were one of the first to have a black woman churchwarden. The church has affirmed the role of women. Women ‘sidesmen’ (welcomers) were appointed as early as 1917 at St Chrysostom’s. Some churches were still not appointing them in the 1980s! The first deaconesses in Manchester Diocese were commissioned for their work at St Chrysostom’s.
We are well known for our inclusion of people of different languages and ethnicities, and on an average Sunday between 10-15 first languages are represented at Mass. LGBT people have found a spiritual home at St C’s when the churches have been unwelcoming. Now LGBT people are in leadership roles at St C’s. Encouraged by the Bishop of Manchester we began a monthly Mass aimed at LGBT people and their friends, the first in the Church of England. This has now evolved into a monthly celebration of variety and inclusion – Evening Oasis.
We are a growing church and we are enjoying working to make Mass and all aspects of church life even more inclusive.
So a fantastic track record! Inevitably at times steps to inclusion have been joyful, at times they have been difficult – sometimes in the face of disapproval. The St Chrysostom’s Church Council recently endorsed the Inclusive Church statement. We had hesitated to do so in the past as we felt inclusion wasn’t being seen as the wide issue which it is now recognised as being. As one church member said – The Inclusive Church Statement is a statement of what we are doing already another remarked It’s everyday at St C’s! Indeed, and endorsing it helps us to connect with churches and congregations of a similar outlook.
The statement reads:
We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.
We are grateful to the Inclusive Church network for their work and for their statement. Now we’d not be St C’s if we didn’t work on boundaries, and yes, while endorsing the statement we also felt we’d like to explore it more – What about discrimination on grounds of age, are we inclusive of a variety of views of the nature and content of Christian faith…
So – More thoughts on inclusion coming!