Pilgrimage Day 4: Praise and criticism

By Symon Hill
June 19, 2011

I am currently on a pilgrimage of repentance for my former homophobia, walking from Birmingham to London between 16 June and 1 July. For more details and updates, please see http://repenting.wordpress.com

I went to Leamington Peace Festival this afternoon – and got lost on the way. Today’s a non-walking day, and the walk should have taken about 15 or 20 minutes from my friends’ flat. This doesn’t bode well for successfully making the remaining 124 miles without at some point going in the wrong direction.

It’s good to have a day off walking (after 36 miles over the last three days), and especially nice to stay with my friends Emma and Peter in Leamington. They are not only great company but are being persistently hospitable and caring. Emma just turned down my offer of help with the washing up, encouraging me to take the time to write my blog (I’ll try not to take this as a slur on my washing-up abilities).

The day’s been busier than I’d expected. I got up for an interview with BBC Coventry and Warwickshire at 8.00am, and spent much of the morning replying to comments on my blog that had built up over the last few days. On the one hand, many of the comments contain praise and encouragement (which I really appreciate and find helpful, although I feel undeserving of much of the praise). On the other hand, there are aggressively critical comments, often making inaccurate assumptions about my beliefs. Politely critical comments are in short supply. Reading comments that alternate between high praise and outraged insults is a rather weird experience.

Another suprise awaited me at the Leamington Peace Festival, when I went to talk to people at a stall run by Coventry and Warwickshire Friend, an LGBT helpline. One of them had heard me on Radio 4 this morning, and they began to ask me about my pilgrimage. A couple standing nearby said that they had also heard of it and expressed their support. I was rather taken aback; the walk has already received far more publicity than I expected.

The couple, Sophie and Nina, shared their mixed experiences of church attitudes to their sexuality. Sophie belongs to a Methodist church in Leamington and I was really pleased to hear that the church has been supportive of her relationship with Nina. In contrast, Nina, who is Italian, spoke of the hostility of the Roman Catholic Church to same-sex relationships, and we discussed the situation of Catholics who take a different view.

I’m looking forward to accompanying Emma and Peter to their church, St Mark’s, this evening. And – despite not walking today – I’m already looking forward to an early night afterwards. The three days’ walking so far is still affecting me.


(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia. For more information on his pilgrimage of repentance, please visit http://www.repenting.wordpress.com

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