• Endings , Beginnings and the Journey On . . .

    How are you finding retirement now?” . . . is a common question I hear, from people who know that we celebrated 25 years of Courage with a final service of celebration and thanksgiving on 15th September 2012. Their perception is, having finally drawn to a close more or less 25 years of active ministry under the name of Courage, that the time has come when I can sit back and take life a bit more easily! Well I‘ve come to the conclusion that retirement is a complete myth, because life has been so extraordinarily busy since then, that I have not even had a chance to keep my blog up to date! Perhaps it is also true that I imagined, somehow, that when I began to write, something definitive and conclusive, appropriate to the end of an era, would come out of my ruminations. The reader can judge that maybe when they get to the end of this entry. But since September, for me, life has carried on looking very much like it did before. Loads of new enquiries and requests for help have come, including a couple of interesting requests to go and speak—mainly through the old Courage website—so apart from the fact that I am not organising meetings, except for the monthly Bible Studies, life has continued pretty much as usual.

    ENDINGS: A Wonderful Celebration: Saturday 15th September 2012

    Our final service of celebration and thanksgiving for 25 years of Courage did not disappoint. We had a great turnout of people and heard some wonderful testimonies representing those 25 years. Dave Tomlinson presented us with a great address entitled, “Be proud of who God made you”, the text of which you can see on the Courage website

    My wife Bren led the meeting; Steve Abley led us in worship; Mark Hutin sang a solo; seven people gave personal testimonies; the ‘Two:23 Network’ committee gave a presentation about what they are planning for the future; and the well-known organist, the Rev Rupert Jeffcoat, played a couple of magnificent voluntaries—on the organ of St Luke’s Church, Chelsea, which generously hosted our Celebration and provided tea and cake to follow.

    Brian and Shelia Longman

    Bren Marks

    In conclusion, Brian Longman (who has assisted me in the office most faithfully for 10 years) presented Bren with a wonderful bouquet of flowers and me with an amazing gift from grateful Courage members—a cheque for £4,268, which was incredibly generous of everybody, and a pretty overwhelming gift, for which I am immensely grateful!

    NEW BEGINNINGS

    The inaugural meeting of the Two:23 Network, 24th November 2012

    If the final Courage service was a great event to remember, the first meeting of the new Two:23 Network was, if anything, even greater. The team who organised the event did a magnificent job and the speaker they had invited, the Rev David Ison, new Dean of St Paul’s, was great. You can find his talk at this link. Clearly the new ministry has captured people’s imagination, because the turnout was great. The undoubted popularity and overall success of the event certainly augurs well for its future development.

    The next meeting will be held on 23rd February, again at St Mary Aldemary, and full details can be found on the Two 23 website.

    THE JOURNEY ON . . .

    With my diary filling up quickly each week with requests for appointments to meet, I am certainly keeping very busy still with the ongoing pastoral work, Post-Courage. It is really sad that the fastest growing sector of the Church—the evangelical wing, which I come from—continuously creates masses of work for me because, for the most part, the churches simply will not engage intelligently with the subject of homosexuality; they insist on holding to their outdated ideas about gay people, and enforce their medieval tradition of outright condemnation, based on a superficial understanding of the Bible. Yet whilst creating a great deal of work for me—picking up the pieces after they have seriously messed up their lesbian & gay church members—not a single church anywhere gives me one iota of support. The attitudes of many bring to mind Blaise Pascal’s famous observation: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    Therefore, my moral and financial support continues to come solely through the generosity of a few individuals. And the situation isn’t getting any easier.

    I continue to work out of a small (and rather cluttered) office in Guildford—cluttered because I struggle to find the time and motivation to finish the task of going through everything, to get rid of as much as I possibly can, archiving what must be kept. A substantial library of 2000+ books, 500 + cassette tapes & CD’s of talks given, hundreds of files, plus office equipment, all built up over 25 years, is certainly not something one could house at home. Besides, it would not be appropriate to see clients at home with a ministry of this kind. But, continue to sort this all out I must, because with support dwindling month by month, I may soon have little choice but to move out of the office to save the cost of renting. If this is the case, then I shall just have to put much of the stuff into store somewhere, and work from home doing phone calls, e-mails etc. Then I shall go back to meeting people in cafes/restaurants etc., as I’ve done before in years gone by. God may have some other provision in mind, but I need to be prepared.

    The Five-Year Plan?

    For those who like to ask the sort of question, “Where do you want to be in 5 years time?” Or, “What do you want to be doing? What are your goals?”, I have to say at the moment that I do not know. The Holy Spirit has never worked in that way with me. Indeed I seldom feel I know with any great confidence what God might want me to be doing next month! All my life, whether working as a professional photographer having to cope with the uncertainties of British weather conditions, as I did 25 years ago, or living and working by faith in a full-time Christian ministry with no financial certainties, I have had to learn to be extremely flexible. I do know, however, that after 25 years in this somewhat rarefied kind of ministry, I need some time and space to wind down and, without wanting to sound negative, “detox” somewhat from the specific focus of ministry to gay Christian people in a hostile church scenario. And during that time, I think that sorting out all the office stuff (as and when I can find the time to do it) will be a cathartic part of the process, hopefully. My work in preparation for speaking at the forthcoming Evangelical Fellowship conference in April may well help with the process also . . .

    Evangelical Fellowship Spring Conference: 12th—14th April 2013

    For further details, or to book, see: www.eflgc.org.uk/events.asp

    Conference theme: “What kind of Life, after death?”

    23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’

    John 12:23-26 TNIV

    Here are the details of the conference theme:

    “For 25 years, Jeremy Marks led Courage, a ministry that helped LGB Christians reconcile their faith and sexuality. Starting out as an ‘ex-gay’ ministry in 1987/88, it became clear by the late 1990's that this ‘hope’ was based on man’s thinking and had to die. By the year 2001, the ministry had a new vision, brought new life, and bore much good fruit in the lives of many gay Christian people. In August 2010, realising that by 2012 he would have been working in this area of ministry for 25 years, Jeremy sensed God speaking—to say that by September 2012 the time would have come for Courage to finish.

    “For all Christians, the experience of ‘dying’ before discovering life is a core theme for our lives, and brings very real challenges. For many gay Christians, in accepting one’s sexuality, you die to the kind of expectations that most people have for their life—marriage, heterosexual family life, etc. which means dying to the perceived ‘normal’ way of life most of us aspired to. In coming out publicly as gay, we die to our reputation in the eyes of many people and we face all kinds of hostility and ostracism that follows, often losing the support of the community we grew up in. All our lives are finite. And whether our lives are long or short, we have a limited time to make sense of what we are here for, and what kind of future we are preparing ourselves for. Is the Christian promise of life after death just ‘pie in the sky when you die’? At some point in life, we all have to face our own mortality. So does the sum of all the heartache and challenges, plus some joys and fulfilled hopes, amount to something worthwhile, even eternal, as we look to the future?

    “This weekend, we shall discuss the themes of death and resurrection in our spiritual journey, themes that are taken for granted as being part of the life of every Christian, yet are seldom talked about.”

    The conference will be centred around three sessions which are:-

    Session 1: What does it mean to die to one’s self and find life?

    Session 2: What does a life surrendered into God’s hands look like?

    Session 3: Resurrection? What comes after this life?

    I hope maybe I will see some of you there at the conference, if I don’t see you before then, at the next Two:23 Network meeting in London—on Saturday 23rd February.

    The Lord bless you.

    Jeremy Marks

    11th January 2013

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