Here & now: Jake Penny
Jake Penny on being welcomed at church
I didn’t have to worry about being turned away when I went into my first church meeting – I am a gay, autistic, mentally ill man. The only thing that made me immediately seem different from the other churchgoers was my age – about a quarter that of most of the others there. My old cub leader had kindly agreed to go with me to this, my first service since I left Scouts at 13. Not much had changed: the building, the hymns and the church smell were all familiar. However, this time I went as someone who had started to come to terms with the desire for faith in their life.
I was raised as an atheist. I knew Christmas and Easter, stories of Noah’s ark and David and Goliath, but none of it made much sense to me. I had a critical take on living a Christian life, and this presented a huge burden in interacting with people who had been Christian for all their life. I knew in theory that there were those who denied the Big Bang, and those who saw it as part of God’s creation; now, suddenly, I had faces for them.
In among all of these new people there was one recurring theme: testimony. Testimony is obviously a very personal topic with a strong focus on the individual and their coming to faith. While important, that often leaves me feeling left out. I often think I’m the only gay person in my church, and that can mean that saying: ‘God loved me when I couldn’t love myself’ might come across as a little strange…
Jake Penny is an Asian studies and Hispanic studies student at the University of Kent
This is an extract from an article that was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform