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Reform Magazine | October 22, 2019

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Here & now: Jake Penny

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

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform

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