By Stuart Mann
Growing up at St. Matthias, Bellwoods, Robert Adams was grateful that he was part of a congregation that fully accepted and welcomed LGBTQ people. When he came out, he could talk to other church members who had made the journey and could give him their support.
While listening to their stories, Mr. Adams, 25, realized there was a lot about the history of LGBTQ people in the Anglican Church and Toronto that he didn’t know. He shared his thoughts with a friend and they came up with an idea.
“We thought it would be great to have some sort of talking night,” he recalls. “We could educate ourselves and other people like us about our history by listening to the stories of people who lived through those times.”
He shared the idea with the Rev. Joyce Barnett, the incumbent of St. Matthias, and others in the congregation. With their support, a new speaking series was born. It’s called “History Coming Out: Queer history from those who lived it.”
The first event will be held at St. Matthias on May 1 at 7:30 p.m. The speaker will be Paul Macdonald, a parishioner and a member of the Right to Privacy Committee, a gay rights group in Canada from 1979 to 1991. A second event will be held at the church on June 5 at 7:30 p.m., featuring Chris Ambidge, ODT, a member of Redeemer, Bloor Street and a long-time advocate for LGBTQ people in the Anglican Church. Each event will last about 90 minutes and light refreshments will be served. More speaking engagements will be held in the fall.
Mr. Adams, who will act as host, says the format of the evenings will be simple, with the speakers telling their stories and taking questions from the audience. The talks will be recorded for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, located in Toronto, and for the diocese’s Archives. The York-Credit Valley area council is providing a small grant to help the church buy recording equipment. Mr. Adams also plans to turn the talks into podcasts, making them available to a wider audience.
He says he’s excited by the possibilities. “I think it will be a great way to talk about our history and also about what’s going on right now in the Church,” he says.
The series is also a way to acknowledge the pioneers of the LGBTQ community, both in the Church and Toronto. “I’ve met a lot of people who have done the hard work to get where we are today, both in the Church and the city,” says Mr. Adams. “There’s a lot of history and they’ve had to fight to get to where we are.”
He adds: “For me personally, I’m very grateful and thankful that I live in a time where being gay is, for the most part, accepted, and that I didn’t have to go through some of these things that others had to.”
The Rev. Joyce Barnett says the speaking series is “utterly fantastic. I feel so privileged, after everything I’ve been through in the Church to be an out lesbian incumbent, to now have our young people come to us and say, ‘We’d love to hear your stories and we’d love to hear them right here in the church.’ That is very exciting and positive for me.”
All are invited to the talks. St. Matthias, Bellwoods is located at 45 Bellwoods Ave., Toronto.