England Tour: Days 1-2

When I got to the airport everything went smooth. The gate was C21, and that’s sweet for me because Concourse C is where my favorite Chinese food is located. Excited as I was, I got to sprint towards my Chinese place and down a bunch of my favorite Orange Chicken with white rice! There is no better Orange Chicken in this world than at O’Hare! When I boarded the plane I got to my seat and realized that there weren’t a lot of other people getting on. There ended up being 27 people on this huge plane to England, so we all got an entire row all to ourselves! Holla. The plane departed at 6:30pm, which is 12:30am in England. I figured if I could fall asleep right away that when we landed at 8:30am I would be fully time-adjusted.
 
Too bad that didn’t happen  :)
 
I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I ended up watching the movie It’s Complicated with Streep/Baldwin. I hated it. It was terrible. Bored out of my mind after that waste of 2 hours I started to read. I brought with me 4 books and my Bible. Choices, choices. I decided to start reading the 1,100 page monstrosity that is Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome. I got about 100-ish pages in and it’s really good thus far. That made me feel better; still not sleepy though as the book is a thriller from the start. I figured that wouldn’t help me get tired continuing to read a thriller, so maybe a Christian book would?! :)  I got out Alan Hirsch’s new book, Untamed, and started reading that. About 75 pages in I realized that wouldn’t make me tired either. Drat! Back to the movies, I thought. One of the movies playing was The Blind Side. I have refused to see it thus far because I know, I just know I would cry watching it and I didn’t want to do that. But seeing I had nothing else to do, a row all to myself, and a lot of time on my hands, I watched it. And yep, cry I did. I swear I cried at least half the movie. Maybe it was because I was already feeling emotional knowing I was going to be gone for the next 23 days? Maybe because I was super nervous that I was potentially walking into a British-trap of haters to my message for no other reason than I’m American? Maybe it was because I was sappily already missing my family? Or maybe it was just a really sensitive movie that touched my soul? No matter the reason I’m glad I had a row to myself!
 
I was so drained after watching that movie I quickly fell asleep (unfortunately for only about an hour) and the next thing you know we’re touching down at Heathrow Airport. A brilliant chap named Dave picked me up at the airport (he was holding a cool sign that said, Springharvest Andrew Marin). I exchanged some US dollars for some British Pounds – and let me just tell you that $73 got me about 40-something pounds! What the heck America! Our first stop was to the T-Mobile dispenser thing that I bought a UK SIM Card for my internationally wired Blackberry phone. Unfortunately the technologically inept person that I am, I’m still not able to figure out how to get it to work. I’m still trying though! I will conquer it soon! And off we were in his comfy red Audi on our 3+ hour trip to Minehead. We had a great conversation, stopped off for some sandwiches and tea(!), and arrived to the site in the afternoon. I was gassed! But I immediately found some of my favorite Brits (Wendy Beech Ward and Laura West), exchanged some hugs, got some lunch, said hi to their families and I couldn’t get to my ‘chalet’ (what they call our accommodations) fast enough. I just collapsed and woke up a few hours later feeling much better. I reconnected with Wendy and we were off for a tour of the site and then ended at the ‘Big Top’ (their general session area) for the evenings events. I’m sure it was great, but it was much of a blur because I was so tired. I headed back to my chalet, got lost for about 15 minutes, finally found it, and went to bed.
 
I set my alarm for 8am (2am my time), and my body was not feeling it. I slapped that alarm back into reality and slept until about 11am. When I woke up I reviewed my notes for that afternoon’s lecture, took a shower, made sure I looked nice and off I was. I can’t tell you how nervous I was! I haven’t felt that nervous in a long time! The last time I was out here speaking in England my message was well received, except for an entire denominational publication who can’t stand me or my work and loves writing/talking trash about me. I had no idea if they would be there or not; if this was going to turn into a pick-apart-Andrew-Marin time; or what? I think I lost 5 lbs. just in nervous sweat! Over the last month I have been doing as much research as I can, talking to all of my British friends filling me in on the engagement/lack their-of between the two communities; trying to gain as much insight and accurate perspective as I can. My one goal is to not be the stupid American! When I walked into the site, it was a huge ballroom area with lots and lots of empty chairs. It was only about 10 minutes before I was on, and there were about 15 people in attendance. Guess not many people wanted to hear about homosexuality and elevating the conversation?
 
But then with about 5 minutes to go, everyone started pouring in! In what seemed like 1 minute that auditorium went from 15 people to the place overflowing out the door! The room was buzzing, and I’m talking awkward, nervous buzzing because no one knew what to expect from this unknown American. Wendy introduced me to the crowd and off I went. The hour seemed to fly by and the audience was overtly engaged – laughing, crying, clapping – it was amazing. I didn’t see that coming from a mile away! The last time I was speaking over here the audiences were stone-faced, even if they did like it! That is what I was preparing for…but no! It felt like I was speaking to an American audience with British accents. After the lecture was over a mass of people descended upon the stage to talk and I thought, Here we go…I’m ready for the insults.
 
That was the farthest thing from the truth of what actually happened! Here are just a few of what some people said:
 
“I am a mother and have been told by my church that my gay son is lost and unlovable. You are the first person to give me permission to love my son again. Bless you” (with tears and a kiss she walks off).
 
In a whisper: “I am gay. You don’t know how much this means to me. This was like nothing I’ve ever heard here before.”
 
“I came to this knowing I was going to be extremely pissed off listening to you blabber about the same ol’ crap I hear from the Church. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Please accept my apology. Thank you.”
 
“I’m a lesbian and I read your book and I still can’t believe I’m sitting here at Spring Harvest listening to you. They don’t do this! The Church of England doesn’t do this. I don’t know how you’re here, but this hopefully is the start of something special. I hope the people here have been listening.”
 
“The brilliant part to what you said is that British people just seethe-in-silence. You’ve just torn that apart and let our voices be heard.”
 
Stuff like that went on and on. I was floored. FLOORED! They were old and young; men and woman; gay and straight; clergy and layperson; parents and grandparents; brothers and sisters; friends and co-workers. Unreal. Were there people in that huge audience that didn’t like what I had to say; I’m sure there were. But none of them came up to me to say anything. In fact, walking around the site after the talk I had at least 5 other gay men/lesbian woman stopped me to thank me for giving them a voice for the first time in such a setting. I couldn’t get 10 feet without someone else stopping me wanting to tell me their story of the Church and how it has (hasn’t ‘handled’) their GLBT family member/friend/etc.
 
The organizers of the event were more floored than I was. They kept coming up to me saying,
 
“We thought all of this time that this was a dead issue in England. Guess we’re either really wrong, or that’s what we want to tell ourselves to make our ignoring this acceptable.”
 
Um, ok then. Quite profound self-realizing statements. I was so overwhelmed I went back to my chalet and on my knees praised the Lord for the grace He had just shown me here.
 
Later that evening I got some dinner and then went to the concert – Nikki Rogers – singing songs from her new album Once in a While. This lady is crazy unbelievable. She has had the best voice I’ve ever heard live. What a day.
 
I woke up this morning, exhilarated, and the first thing I see when I get on the Internet is that my good friend Michael Spencer had passed away. At this time of dualistic feelings, my soul is a little messed up right now. It has been wonderful writing this, and I’m off in a few hours to speak again tonight – not a lecture but a total Q&A session. Let’s see what happens. I’ll be updating you again soon…
 
Funny side notes:
I keep walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk and people keep giving me strange looks!
Thank God Brenda convinced me to take my coat as Weather Channel lied to us about how “warm” it was supposed to be.
No one could tell I’m American until I open my mouth and talk…brilliant!
People keep telling me ‘cheers’ as a good-bye, but I don’t know what to say in return because I feel stupid saying cheers. So I just bow.
  :)

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Mrs T

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    PTL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’m so happy for you, but be careful & take it a day at a time.

    Condolences on losing the IM. I stayed up late & decided to check the site.
    There was the news! Well, he’s happy now, but what a loss!

    I often say ‘cheers’ at the end of a correspondence. It is very friendly & different. I don’t know how it got to be a habit, but I think it’s fun & fine to use. Thanks for taking the time to share the info. Wow again!

    Cheers,
    Mrs “T”

  • Mandy

    Ah, yes. Bowing is much less awkward than saying “cheers!”
    I love all your Britishisms. Stay there a little longer and you’ll have an accent to match!

  • Luke

    Ha ha you’re so funny. You’ll get used to our ways! SO glad you had a good reception… so many of us in the closet here in the church in Britain, are hurting so much and to hear someone like you gives us permission to breathe. I personally believe I am called to celibacy but I still don’t feel free to be honest about my sexuality.May that change. Go Andrew! May God anoint and bless you! Cheers!

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Andrew: You missed the most important item. Did you get to watch the first episode of Matt Smith’s “Doctor Who”? If so, d’you have any spoilers for your fellow Americans who have to wait until next week to watch??? :P

    Anyway, I’m glad your first event went well. :)

  • http://jwalkergs.wordpress.com/ Jason

    Hey Andrew…it sounds like you’re off to a great start. Praying for hearts, minds and doors to be open while you’re there!

    Blessings!
    J

  • Jo x

    I love Jon Trouten’s comment about Dcctor Who! I was gutted to have missed Matt Smith’s first episode – I will have to watch it on BBC i-player.

    It was an absolute delight to meet the man who wrote the incredible book. It was just a shame that there was a mix up and the books weren’t delivered before we had to leave. I’m just glad I already had a copy.

    I wish I’d known about Michael Spencer, it would have been nice to have been able to express my sympathy. It must have been difficult to not be at home with the sad news……

    PS What’s a sidewalk? – tee hee.
    PPS I dig your accent!

  • Di

    I was at Spring Harvest this week. I didn’t come to your talk as there is one every year and every year I get annoyed at a church that tells me I am wrong. Some of my friends went and afterwards we all had a very open and frank discussion about homosexuality, the church and theology. We then came along to the debate the next evening. It was refreshing to debate, civilly and not have a bibilical slanging match. To learn about your work and ethos. To hear peoples experiences, particularly Avril’s, to know that it is possible to be out is a church.

    I have read your blog for a while and thought that we would not get along as we possibly disagree theologically, but I think that I had missed the point. I think that we are actually thinking along similar lines, but from differnt angles. I want to challenge what people believe so that they think about it, so that they believe because they have thought, prayed and come to a conclusion, not just swallowed what is said from the front of the church. From that point I think that people can work together to continue to spread the word and love of God.

    Thank you for promting the discussion and sorry for mis-judging you in the first place. I pray for your success in the other weeks of Spring Harvest and the other events you have planned in the UK, that you cna continue to challenge and open peoples minds.

    I will be buying your book and downloading your talk. Sorry I think I rambled abit!

    Thank you
    Di

  • Huw

    Like Di, didn’t make it to the afternoon session at Spring Harvest, but came along to the debate in the evening. Also found Avril’s story really moving, and the whole idea that we needed to define the extremes and then the nuances in the debate made me think about an area where we don’t always have to engage our brains much in the UK, and then try and put contours on my own position. I am a thinking Christian, but being in the evangelical-charismatic scene in the UK does tend to clog the arteries when it comes to thinking about it. Lots of things in my mind changed over the evening, at quite a gut level (guts in my mind? what AM I on about!) but I was really grateful for the chance also to get into groups and debate, something that SH was not good at this year. Thanks so much for starting it all off!

  • Tanya & Jane

    Hi Andrew, don’t get too exhausted we’d still like you to have some energy left for Courage on the 23rd! We look forward to meeting you then and gaining some insights for our listening group in Milton Keynes. We are both reading your book and one of our best friends was at both meetings in Minehead so we have already had some first hand feedback on how it went. We are excited at what God is doing and will be praying for you. God Bless.

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    …and we’re currently packing to head off to Minehead next week, really great to hear how the first week went and Andrew I hope the subsequent events have been OK too… and that you’re surviving the crazy drive all the way across the country and back a few times.

    I’ve been listening out to how people respond to ‘Cheers’. A common one is ‘See you’… don’t know if that’s any easier to say with a US accent…?

  • Di

    I use Cheers for thanks, just to throw another spanner in the works!

  • Mrs T

    It has been great hearing from you & you shouldn’t feel pressured to post every day, but now that you have a day off(ha ha – I bet you are busy!), your fan club would like to hear from you.
    Cheerio!

  • http://www.peregrination.org.uk Phelim McIntyre

    Poor Spring Harvest – they have been offered people who do this over the last six years but have never been interested. I wonder if the fact that the people who were offered say “I don’t condem you” as well as “Go away and sin no more” to homosexuals had something to do with it?

    These people offered included those who have worked with YWAM, Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ and across all denominations so it can’t be a denominational thing. Some, like myself, had been on the Spring Harvest team talking about other issues but they never came to us about this side of our work. No wonder there were people there who did not know the C of E and others don’t do this – so much for the Listening Project.

  • rev. s. russ

    Do hope you see more of the u.k. than the service stations between the sites. Sorry haven’t made it to either site, economics, I am sure you will give a lot of people food for thought – some will get indigestion but hey that’s good. Not being in the anglican church the issue is not a national one – did love the book for the input on mission and idenity. enojy the rest of the trip.
    s. russ

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    I was just checking out the Spring Harvest website. Seems like there are lots of different worship leaders, presenters, and musicians this year. Sounds interesting.

  • cas

    Hey,
    I was at SH and I’ve just listened to your talk on CD (I was the artist there and due to workshops couldn’t make your session, sorry) I just wanted to say how refreshing to hear a different perspective from the one we normally hear. It’s a conversation I have been having for the past couple of years and have felt that I have been a lone voice in a sea of judgement and condemnation, even down to being criticized for wanting to go to a gay friends wedding.
    I am straight and have a number of gay friends who I love dearly and absolutely cherish spending time with. They know what I believe and where I am coming from. Conversations are often heated, uncomfortable and challenging, but it’s only through conversations and relationship that we can grow in understanding of each other. I know I am called to love them and love them and love them :)
    Thank you SO much for your ministry.

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    I finally met the man himself! Creating a storm here at Spring Harvest, it’s great to have some honest, open discussion (just a shame there’s never enough time at a conference for the huge amount of ground that the conversations need to cover!).

    I think we’re working Andrew to the bone with teen talks, debates, presentations and crazy drives across the country. You guys in the US, look after him when he gets home!


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