Walking in Faith
There was a time when I lived a gay lifestyle, but that all changed very gradually when it became clear that God wanted me to live differently, as a celibate man. Through His grace, God has sustained me in that life’s commitment. Now, looking back, I can see just how the Lord was working in my life, getting me to the stage of acknowledging him as my Lord and Saviour, giving my life to him, and walking with him in faith.
One of my earliest vivid memories, was when I was aged four and my family visited Tarr Steps in Exmoor, Somerset. After a long car journey, and with excitement and relief, my brothers and I ran down the embankment to the old stone bridge that crosses the River Barle. One of my brothers gave me a playful push and losing my balance, and I toppled into the river. The strength of the water pulled me under the bridge. I was told that, miraculously, pockets of air in my coat kept me afloat and a little bit further down the river, I felt my Dad pull me out from the deep cold water to place me onto firm ground. This so reminds me in the way the Lord has kept me afloat throughout the difficulties in my life, with the love that he has for me, and how he has pulled me out from a life that seemed impossible and meaningless, to stand me on a firm foundation of faith and to becoming a born-again Christian.
My confession and having to leave my family home
My father was a vicar with the Church of England, so I was brought up in a very religious environment. However, as a young boy regularly attending church, I do remember feeling a lack of connection with God. I felt I didn’t know him, and he seemed a million miles away. I knew of Jesus Christ, but at that time I didn’t know him in the way I do today.
Throughout my time at school and then later attending the Hastings College of Art and Design, I felt a tremendous amount of unhappiness, loneliness and even depression. In having to carry a heavy burden, which affected my whole life, and that burden was knowing I was gay. I did not know who I could speak to about it, and was fearful of how my parents would react if I told them. Having so many questions (why did I have to be born gay?), feeling so different from those around me, looking in from the outside at a heterosexual world, and a feeling of being segregated.
At the age of twenty, not being able to keep this burden to myself any longer, I had to tell my parents. Sadly, and for whatever reason, my parents didn’t take my confession well, and they suggested that they find psychiatric help for me, to take away my gay sexual tendencies. I didn’t agree with this suggestion and so, in a very short time, my parents found me a bedsit in Silverhill, situated near to Hastings, and,I had to leave my family home. The loneliness that I felt in those first few months of living in a bedsit, away from my family, haunted me for the rest of my life. I felt abandoned by my parents and left only with questions as to why.
The gathering of the swallows
Now needing to pay my own way in life, and with my mother being a staff nurse at the Memorial hospital in Rye, Sussex, she found me a job working as a Health Care Assistant at a hospital near to where she worked, called ‘Hill House’ Hospital, caring for those with intellectual and physical disabilities. It was a very austere-looking building, with grey painted walls, and to me it slightly resembled Colditz Castle in that it looked like a prison. Being so young, in my early twenties, this job was a real eye-opener to me and humbling experience. After a year or so caring for these patients, I began to pine for a different life beyond these grey walls and to perhaps find a job in Graphic Design, or anything to do with Art. Looking out from the hospital window, I could see many Swallows gathering on telegraph wires in the hospital grounds, getting ready to migrate, and I remember thinking, I wish I too could fly away like those birds, and as I was looking out into the distance, at the rolling countryside, I began to get an incredible feeling of reassurance, even excitement, that very soon I too would be leaving to start a new life. Within a matter of weeks, I had found a job working as a tracer for a building company in Hastings Old Town. Looking back now, I strongly believe that the Lord was reassuring me that all will be ok, though not realising at that time, that the Lord was guiding me on, walking with me in life, and supporting me in so many ways.
The seed of change was sown
Visiting my brother who also lived in Hastings, I met someone who was a friend of my father, who also happened to be visiting him that day. She was such a devout Christian, doing so many wonderful works through her faith. She and her husband owned a private chapel in Sussex where my Dad had his parish. There happened to be a newspaper on the floor in my brother’s lounge, that had a striking heading, ‘THE GAY PLAGUE’. It was the early eighties, and being about 21 years of age, when AIDS was bringing a lot of fear to so many. The friend made a comment when seeing this heading, saying that practising gays were an abomination in the eyes of God. Shocked by this comment I said: “I too am gay, and so I must also be an abomination?” I don’t think she expected that response and suggested that I visit her chapel, to spend time with me in prayer for change from my gay lifestyle. After some thought, and not having anything to lose, I agreed. I had never felt comfortable in being me, but if Jesus could change me, it would bring a great release, wanting so much to be accepted by my family and those around me.
The Chapel, which was a converted large barn, felt so peaceful, a beautiful place to visit, but after they had spent time with me in prayer, I left the chapel feeling very disappointed. I felt no different. I still had feelings of same-sex attraction, but what I didn’t realise was that God had planted a seed for change in me, something that wouldn’t become clear to me, till many years later. That seed of change would be to eventually live a life of celibacy. Something that I thought could never be possible was made possible, and from that I was able to find a peace that I had never experienced before. I have begun to understand that the Lord times things perfectly and for good reason, and I appreciate all I have gone through, before being committed to celibacy. It was a way the Lord could build me up in experience and faith.
Two incredible chance meetings
In my early teens I studied the piano from the age of 11 to 15. Music was something that I enjoyed and seemed to come very naturally to me. From a very early age I wanted to become a singer/songwriter. When my piano lessons ended I had no reason to think that I would ever be involved with music again, until I had a chance meeting aged 21 with someone in Hastings by the name of Jim, who was indeed a singer/songwriter. Jim was looking for a keyboard player to join his band. I auditioned and was accepted. As a child I would often wonder how my favourite pop artists wrote their songs, something I thought I could never do. However, with learning backing vocals in the band I discovered I had a good singing voice, and with learning Jim’s songs I could see how songs were built up in composition and discovered that I too could write songs. Even though I studied Art it didn’t quite fulfil the creative outlet in the way that music does.
Still living in Silverhill and working as a tracer in Hastings Old Town, I was invited to a party by someone who owned a wonderful health food café, just down the road from where I worked. He was a wonderful flamboyant, friendly, charismatic gay man, who ran his café shop with his partner. At this party I met someone called John, who was with his friend Joseph. Both John and Joseph were vicars, having their own parishes in London. We got on very well and became friends. Unfortunately for me, with the advances in computer technology and printing, I was made redundant from my job as a tracer. I was devastated at the time, but I can now see it was a way the Lord was moving me on. Everything seemed to be closing for me in Hastings, even the band I was involved in decided to go their own way, and so I decided to move to Brighton for a fresh start.
My move to Brighton
Moving to Brighton in 1983, aged 23, I was filled with hope for the new beginnings. But, as with everything in life, it was not quite as I expected and my new venture was filled with difficulties and challenging times. Living on sparse wages the accommodation I found in Brighton was unsatisfactory and so I ended up moving from one bedsit/B&B to another. Sadly, with so much moving around and a chaotic life, I lost contact with my friend John, thinking that our friendship was lost and there was nothing I could do. This was the early eighties, long before mobile phones, email, or social media.
I soon became disillusioned with the gay scene in Brighton and the people I met. I was hoping to find a partner, to build a good and meaningful relationship with someone, someone I could love and share my life with in a committed way. What I discovered was that the gay scene seemed to be shrouded in promiscuity, which was a big issue for me, something which greatly conflicted with my values. There appeared to be no ability or desire to be faithful. Ok there were the exceptions, but they were very rare. Also, those who I found attractive either didn’t feel the same way about me, or were married. So much seemed to conflict with my life values and finding a lasting relationship seemed impossible. Moreover, I had strong feelings that being a practising gay man was wrong, and many years later I began to realise I was compromising the word of God in living my gay lifestyle. However, an unexpected relationship would make itself know to me in the future, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Another chance meeting
My life in Brighton and just being me was difficult, but one thing at that time that kept me focused, and which I believe the Lord opened to me, was music. Emotionally there was a lot for me to accept and understand. I felt terrible rejection from my parents, alongside all the difficulties that I experienced in living as a practising same-sex attraction man. Even though I didn’t pursue music as a full-time career, it did give me a way of expressing those deep-rooted emotions; it gave me an outlet. Aged 26, I had a chance meeting with someone by the name of Jeff Daniels, who wrote the musical ‘Time’ with Dave Clerk. Jeff introduced me to someone called Richard who owned a private studio in Brighton. From there my songwriting developed and I’m grateful to the Lord for this gift, which helped me through so many tough times and gave me a sense of achievement and tremendous enjoyment.
The Lord's intervention
Aged 31, I met someone who made a tremendous impact on me and with whom I fell in love. But soon it became clear that it was never to be and that it had come to an end. Having to deal with homophobic comments in the job I had at that time, and the end of my relationship, meant it all became too much for me, which resulted in me having a breakdown. Everything was spiraling out of control and because of the mess I was in and not wanting to continue living, I did try to take my own life, or maybe it was more of a cry for help. I’ve never been dependent on drink or drugs, however I was crying out for something to ease the pain I felt. With developing clinical depression, I eventually lost my job. Keeping up with my mortgage payments on my flat in Hove was difficult, and everything seemed hopeless. One day, however, making my way to a nearby store in Hove, I happen to see someone crossing the road towards me. To my amazement it was John. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hadn’t seen him for nearly 10 years and because of losing touch with him I didn’t think I would ever see him again. I hugged him in such relief and joy. John had moved from his parish from London to be based at in Hove. He could have moved much further afield, anywhere in England, but his new parish was only a stone’s throw from my flat, literally just around the corner. John did later explain to me that he very nearly didn’t take the position in Hove, but felt drawn to accept it. I was to eventually realise and believe that it was the Lord who brought John back into my life as my friend and support. It was beyond just being a coincidence, it was God’s intervention. Being a Christian I have begun to realise that coincidence in my life is God at work. I believe the Lord wanted me to purchase that flat in Hove to make it possible to rekindle this friendship. In the future John would help me on my spiritual journey, with advice and prayer and being a true friend.
Being so unwell, I had to sell my flat and cut my losses. John kindly offered me to stay at his vicarage till I was well again. My clinical depression lasted for 5 years and I have no idea what I would have done without his care and support. Gradually getting back into work, I worked my way up from cleaning rooms at a hotel in Brighton to then working as a front of house waiter in the lounge bar, serving afternoon teas. Looking back, I could see the way God was guiding me on to eventually becoming a Crown Court Usher, building me up with experience for that role. At the Grand Hotel I was head-hunted to work in a lounge bar and restaurant in Brighton Marina, and from there I got a job at a Tesco’s store in Hove. It was in this job at Tesco’s that a colleague mentioned applying for a job as a Crown Court Usher in Hove, a job which she eventually got. It sounded interesting. It hadn’t crossed my mind to work for the Ministry of Justice. I asked Sarah if there were any other vacancies. She gave me the Ministry of Justice Human Resources number for me to make enquiries. The MoJ sent me an application form for an usher role at the Brighton County Court. I attended the interview but was told that the job was given to someone else, however with them being very impressed they sent me a letter to say they would keep me on their books. I didn’t really think I would hear from them again, but I was wrong. About three months later, I received two application forms, one for a schedule Crown Court Usher and the other for a part-time position at Hove Crown Court. I really needed full-time work, but I felt I should still go along for the interview. After the interview I explained that I appreciated the interview, but couldn’t afford working scheduled or part-time. As soon as I arrived home, I received a call from the manager to say they would like me to work for them, and would make a full-time position available for me, if I was willing to wait for a further three months. I said yes! So, at the age of 45, I began my career as a Crown Court Usher . It was a blessing and I feel it was God’s intention that I didn’t get the job at the County Court, because the Lord began to make it clear that my vocation was working at the Crown Court, assisting jurors, victims and defendants, and in showing care and compassion. It became my vocation, which I’m still doing today.
For many years I would pray that the Lord could find me someone to love and to share my life with. There were times I would cry from loneliness and times I would pray to God to release me from this life. Living a busy life, involved with two jobs, I was by no means hidden away from meeting people. But for years those prayers were not answered. However, it became clear to me that it wasn’t God’s plan for me to have a gay relationship. It’s true to say if I had been in a relationship it probably would have been more difficult to accept a celibate way of life. But what I have now learnt is that God can make anything possible, if it is His will.
Getting to know Jesus Christ and becoming a born-again Christian
In 2013 aged 53, I was having soul searching questionings regarding my faith, belief, religion, what church I should attend, and so much about my life. One Sunday I walked into the Chapel Royal in Brighton for the first time to attend the morning service. Sitting at the back of the church, taking it all in, I heard the first lesson from Matthew 7:7. Everything around me seemed to shrink into the background and I felt that lesson was directed straight at me.As I heard the words:” Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” I left the church feeling very reassured and from then on Matthew 7:7 would reveal itself to me time and time again at opportune and relevant moments.
It was some time in 2014, I began getting a very strong urge to read and study the Bible, certainly something I must do before I leave this mortal coil. So, I went to Waterstones book store and purchased two Bibles, one was the NIV version, and the other the NRSV. Even though I now possessed two Bibles, I wasn’t reading them with any real conviction. I certainly knew of Jesus Christ, but still at that time I didn’t know him personally. However, that was all about to change in April 2016 when I had just turned 56. I experienced what it was like to become a “born again” Christian. I was re-born into a new life, a fresh start, in being able to build a close relationship with Jesus Christ and with God. This incredible experience of suddenly feeling more connected to Jesus Christ, I call my “epiphany”. During this time, I had two weeks leave and I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to watch sermons online by the evangelist Derek Prince, and during those two weeks I must have watched 25 of his sermons. There were many times in those two weeks I could feel the Holy Spirit moving me to tears: tears of connection, joy and hope for my life that seemed lost. I was soaking up as much as I could, like a sponge. Since my “epiphany”, all the negative things that burdened me, affecting my life, such as loneliness and isolation, were to all fall away through God’s grace and love for me. This filled my life with a sense of purpose, joy and peace. Through God’s love and support it became apparent that I could live a single celibate life and be happy, keeping faithful to the word of God. The Lord showed me that I could also forgive my parents, taking away all the hurt that I felt for so many years and, for the last two years, I have been able to enjoy building a relationship with my parents. I thank the Lord for making that possible.
Since my “epiphany” I have been reading the Bible every day, taking in as much as I can of the Word of God and listening to as many sermons as possible. By the Lord’s grace instead of me feeling on the outside of everything in life, I now feel very much on the inside, at the heart of it all, in the work that I believe God wants me to do as a crown court usher. For that I’m so very grateful. Some years before my “epiphany” as an usher I would often pray for defendants, victims and families who I would see coming through the court, doing all I could to show care and compassion whenever possible. I strongly felt the Lord was making it known to me to carry on with those prayers and the work that I’ve now been doing for 14 years. I was to realise I am literally at the centre of being able to assist all those greatly in need, whose lives have been ravaged by drink, drugs and crime, and this precious life that God has given me I want to use in serving Him. In 2016 I formed a prayer group at Hove Crown Court. It is wonderful being able to share in prayer. No one can underestimate the power of prayer and there have been many testimonies of defendants finding faith in prison, getting to know the Lord, and lives being changed forever. I thank the Lord I can be a part of this.
What became very clear to me when looking back at my life, was the Lord has always been there, gently guiding me to that “epiphany” moment in 2016. With a little nudge, He helped me to see and understand that revelation, and so take the next step in acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of my life. It was like a jigsaw puzzle gradually falling into place, revealing a clear picture of so much, and having more understanding of my life. All of this has made me realise that I am one of the luckiest people alive, being able to have a relationship with Jesus as a child of God, and being grateful for all that God has promised and given me. It is true to say that there are still moments when I feel a loneliness or sadness that I’m not physically sharing my life with someone. But when I hand those feelings to the Lord, they begin to be lifted from me, like a heavy fog being dispersed. These feelings are replaced with feelings of calm, peace and reassurance that the Lord is very much in my life.
The Lord led me to Holland Road Baptist church in Hove, which is a vibrant and lively church. On the 9th of June 2019 I was fully baptised at this church. It is the best thing I have ever done. The Lord has made it known that over the years He has been there for me, and through my baptism I was able to physically show the Lord that I am here for Him, to serve and obey Him to the best of my ability, and to continue moving forward in my walk of faith with Jesus Christ.
The long and short of my testimonial is that it is possible with God’s love and support to live an alternative lifestyle from being a practising gay person. I think one of the most important and fundamental questions to ask oneself is, “How faithful and committed do you want to be to the word of God and what is most important to you?” If there is a slight possibility of going against the word of God in living a compromising lifestyle then I would rather take the road of precaution and follow His word. I do strongly believe that if God didn’t want something being in the Bible it would have been left out, and it does speak very clearly against sexual immorality. It’s not always easy to take up your cross in following Jesus, but the rewards and the love that God can show you for this commitment are unparalleled.
An abbreviated version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Spring 2020 edition of Ascend