While in London, England, for World Pride, I was blessed to be able to attend one of the Soho Masses, sponsored here by the Archdiocese of Westminster (London) for the LGBT community. It was a beautiful service filled with a great spirit of hospitality and solidarity.
The Masses are held on the first and third Sundays of the month, 5:00 pm, at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, in the Soho neighborhood of London, which is the center of the LGBT community. When I attended yesterday, the church was packed, with what I estimated to be about 125 people.
The history of this pastoral accommodation, according to the Soho Massess website, began in 1999:
“Masses in Westminster Diocese, welcoming LGBT Catholics, parents, families and friends, began in April 1999 on the Sunday following the bombing of the Admiral Duncan public-house in Old Compton Street. These liturgies were first held in the Convent of the Helpers of the Holy Souls in Camden Town, London.
“When the Convent property was sold in 2001, the LGBT worshiping community relocated temporarily to St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Dean Street, Soho. As the congregation enlarged in its Soho location, it eventually outgrew the space available.
“In March 2007, following a period of consultation with Diocesan representatives, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered Catholics, parents and friends were invited to transfer 1st & 3rd Sunday 5.00 pm Masses from St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Soho to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho. A statement encouraging “full and active participation” by LGBT Catholics in the life of the Church was issued by the Diocese of Westminster on 2 February 2007. The Soho Masses Pastoral Council was invited to make its own statement regarding the initiative. A further statement from Westminster Diocese confirming this pastoral provision was released on 17 December 2007.“The regular 1st & 3rd Sundays’ evening congregation has a regular attendance of well over 100, but there is estimated overall contact with 250-300 people, some being occasional participants. These Masses are served by a rota of 15 priests from a variety of dioceses and religious communities, some of whom are resident or work in Westminster Diocese. The Soho Masses Pastoral Council, 12 people, elected on an annual basis by regular Mass participants, has been responsible for planning these liturgies, and a number of other pastoral events. “
“The Masses offer us a warm, joyful and inclusive occasion to share in communion with each
other, with our families and friends, and with the whole Church, secure in the knowledge that
we, too, have our place at the Lord’s table.
“Increasing numbers of LGBT Catholics who had been estranged from the Church have been
restored to communion through the Archdiocese’s courageous witness to the dignity of all
At the liturgy I attended, there were two moving prayers of petition that acknowledged the unique character of the gathering:
“For the Church: that the healing power of Christ’s love will heal any divisions that exist withir church, and that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and tr ansgendered people of God may experience the grace of unity and solidarity, at this time of World Pride. ”
“For this community of faith in Soho: that Christ, who is the Cornerstone, will enable us to build a community in which no one is unwelcome and no one excluded for any reason.”
The community gathered for liturgy was amazingly diverse in terms of age, gender, race and ethnicity. At the social hour afterward, even I, as a newcomer, was made to feel very welcome by people I had never met, and who did not know that I was a foreign visitor.
The Soho Masses are clearly doing the work of God here in London, not only providing a welcome to the ostracized, but providing an opportunity for people to be of service to one another and to the church and the world. If you visit London, you should be sure to schedule a visit for one of these wonderful liturgies. For more information, click here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry