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Since announcing my pilgrimage of repentance for homophobia two weeks ago, I've been delighted, excited and humbled to receive so many messages of encouragement and support.
I'll be walking from Birmingham to London in June next year. While I've been working on this idea for a long time, I announced it publicly only on 10 December. I was really moved by the messages I received in the days following the announcement, via email, Twitter, Facebook and the pilgrimage website.
I was affected at a very deep level by people who told me they were inspired and encouraged to hear about my walk. They included a Christian with a gay brother, a gay Christian minister who had once supported homophobia, a Danish Quaker, the non-Christian son of a vicar trying to persuade his father to change his mind about sexuality and several people who said little about themselves but simply expressed their support.
Some were uplifting, some cited upsetting experiences, and some were funny. One who made me laugh out loud said he wished that politicians would show such repentance when they got things wrong – but then added that this could result in exaggerated expenses claims for hiking boots and Kendal mint cake.
I've also had a few messages from churches interested in inviting me to deliver talks on the way or in providing me with accommodation. In an exciting moment yesterday (23 December), St Columba's United Reformed Church in Oxford became the first church to confirm for definite that they will host me on my pilgrimage. I expect to be speaking in Oxford on or around Sunday 26th June.
While I'm speaking with several churches about hosting, I still need to find quite a few more. If you live on the way between Birmingham and London, or have connections there, it would be really helpful if you could approach your church or other group to ask if they would consider hosting me.
Hosting an event could take several forms: I'm happy to give talks, but I'd also be pleased to debate with others who disagree, as well as to join in acts of worship and informal conversations. I hope to engage in respectful dialogue and to challenge and be challenged by those I meet.
After receiving so many supportive messages, there was of course a danger that all this congratulation and praise could have gone to my head. The last fortnight could have made me very egotistical! But the fact that my project is about repentance reminds me that while receiving praise I am also accepting forgiveness. Forgiveness triggers both humility and joy. This is a good combination for being pleased with all the support without becoming big-headed.
And so it seems that less than a fortnight after announcing my walk, and nearly six months away from beginning it, I am already learning more about the meaning of repentance.
To read more about Symon's pilgrimage of repentance for homophobia, please visit http://www.repenting.wordpress.com. If your church or other groups is interested in hosting him, you can reach him atTweet