- November 6, 2017
Isn’t it strange, when you’ve lived somewhere a long time, you leave, then years later you return? It’s the same place, and yet it isn’t. I lived in Brighton from 2001 until 2010. I’ve been back for a over a year now, and the changes are still taking me by surprise – negative and positive ones both.
Some are national changes, simply highlighted because I wasn’t here for the gradual change – such as the dramatic rise in homelessness, an issue in which MCCs, like many churches, are taking action. From volunteering with MCC North London’s cold weather night shelter, I saw there how the number of people without a safe place to live has grown in recent years, and Brighton it seems is no exception. Both the MCC churches in Brighton are working in different ways to help, and that’s something I’m really keen to get involved in.
Some are local changes, such as the welcome proliferation of bike lanes and crossings, which makes being a ‘cycling vicar’ considerably less dangerous than it used to be. Quite besides the environmental concerns, when it’s unaffordable to run a car and frequently impossible to park one, my bicycle has often been my best friend!
When I first transitioned, I had the support of my local churches
Another good change was finding a large, active trans community full of people of all ages. When I first transitioned, I had the support of my local churches, MCC and Anglican both, so I didn’t look hard for another support network. It was there, but it was quiet, and you had to work to find it. I don’t think we’d even begun to address non-binary identities. Who could have imagined Trans Pride, back then? And now it not only exists, but it’s growing year on year – the first of its kind in the UK, I believe. I came back to find that in my absence we’d all come bouncing into the light, full of energy and ideas and a new confidence. There’s still a lot of hostility to us, but Brighton in particular has become a safer place.
And then there’s the allotments. My allotment in 2003 was one of a few amidst a swathe of overgrown, un-tenanted plots. My partner and I even got two full-size plots right next to each other, there were so many free. I carved them slowly out from the grass, nettles and brambles, until in summer I was carrying big boxes of vegetables into church most Sundays, for people to take home. Coming back as a minster, I had this optimistic notion that we could do the same, as a church community project. Therapeutic fresh air, exercise and stress relief; free, healthy food for those on low income; a community-building project, and a chance to explain all those agricultural parables from the gospels by practical experience! Even a chance for different church communities to work together. What’s not to love? And I found that Brighton’s enthusiasm for allotment gardening had grown so much that even the waiting-lists were closed in many places. I’m still intending to get that project off the ground (or into the ground, more appropriately) but it’s clearly going to be more complicated than I thought.
As you can see, there’s a lot of work that I’m eager to get started on, as well as the week-to-week work of providing safe space, pastoral care, encouragement and practical support to our communities.
If you want to know more about what’s going on at The Village MCC, you can visit thevillagemcc.org