A couple have become one of the first same-sex partnerships to receive a blessing at a Church of England service.
Prayers of love and faith were granted to Catherine Bond and Jane Pearce on Sunday morning, celebrating their shared “love and friendship” and “commitment to one another”.
Blessing same-sex couples was sanctioned by the House of Bishops just days ago and they were allowed to be handed out from Sunday.
Not all clergy members agree with the decision to permit the blessing for same-sex couples – some welcome it as progress, others believe it has gone too far, and many hold that the real change needed is marriage recognition.
The couple knelt in front of the vicar, Canon Andrew Dotchin, at St John the Baptist Church in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where they are both associate priests in the parish.
Rev Dotchin held their heads and said: “We give thanks for Catherine and Jane, to the love and friendship they share, and their commitment to one another as they come before you on this day, trusting you as the keeper of all goodness, strengthening their love by your love, and gladdening their hearts with your joy.”
He added that they are continuing on a “pilgrimage graced by your (God’s) blessing, with you as their companion in the dark where they can rejoice and hope in sustaining their love for all the days of their lives”.
Ms Bond, wearing a mustard yellow jacket and black trousers, and Ms Pearce, in a grey jacket and black patterned skirt, smiled as they stood in front of the congregation and received a round of applause initiated by Rev Dotchin.
The service was otherwise a usual Sunday Eucharist, and prayers of love and faith have been permitted during regular public worship such as the Eucharist or Evensong.
Prior to the blessing, a woman read a passage from Isaiah promising that God will “bring good news to the oppressed”.
It said: “They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations – they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
“For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
“Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.”
The General Synod, known as the Church of England’s Parliament, of which Rev Dotchin is a member, voted in favour of offering blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages for the first time in February.
It came after a near eight-hour debate across two days.
On Tuesday, the House of Bishops met online to confirm its earlier decision to commend the prayers for use in regular public worship such as Sunday Eucharist or Evensong, agreeing it should take effect this weekend.
The motion was passed by 24 votes to 11, with three abstentions.
There has been no legislative change in the Church and offering blessings is a voluntary decision for clergy.
Published: by Radio NewsHub