The gift of authentic presence

Last week I was involved in a Christian conference in Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. I’m not generally a fan of these types of gathering but working with some of my friends and colleagues from across the country we were able to do some creative stuff and engage in some fruitful conversations so it was a good few days.


One of the talks I gave explored being gay as a God given identity. I try not to get involved in some of the slanging matches the church can sometimes engage in regarding same sex relationships and wanted simply to offer a positive reflection on my experience of being a gay Christian. People said I was very courageous to offer this talk but, in all honesty, it didn’t feel like I needed much courage to do it. My friend Lou Davis also offered a talk on her and others experiences in the area of fertility/infertility, motherhood and what it means to be a woman today. It was a sacred moment to hear someone speak so honestly and openly. 

We were both trying to be as honest about our experiences as possible and one of the things we found through doing this was the power of authentic presence.

By this I mean that once we strip away all the dross we wrap around ourselves: the presentable face, the face that is strong enough to cope and will never admit to being broken, the face that is clever, wise or good; then we enter into a different way of being. There is something so simple here that is difficult to do in practice. The moment we start to strip these masks away our ego objects, sometimes strongly and sometimes more subtly because we have mistaken the wrappings for the person we actually are and removing them feels like we are being diminished. The truth is, however, that as we remove them we move towards freedom. There’s no doubt that this is a painful process but it is ultimately liberating not only for us but for those around us.

As we are honest about who we really are, without artifice, we are offering the gift of authentic presence to those around us. Authentic presence opens up sacred space. As we are genuinely offering ourselves to others so they are enabled to genuinely be  themselves. And in that space we meet each other without pretence. I no longer need to be seen to be clever, or successful or unbroken, I’m simply being who I am. This is the reason that it didn’t feel like I needed courage to speak last week. I was, as far as I was able, simply being who I am, for good or ill. And there is no striving there or fear of failure or fear of criticism because all I was seeking to achieve was to offer myself. And transformation comes when we are able to meet people in that authentic space.

If you’re interested in what I said here is a recording of the talk. For those listening from a context outside the church in Britain you’ll have to look past some of the churchy references and asides, I was speaking in a certain context and in other places wouldn’t use some of the allusions I do here but I hope that my meaning is still clear.



5 thoughts on “The gift of authentic presence

  1. Well done! My new mantra for ministry is… ‘swing wide the doors and show the world the colour of your underwear’… in other words… live in your own skin, own your own stuff, but always leave space for Jesus to lead you through the mess. You are greatly loved and appreciated, Ric! (well, by us anyways… hahaha)

  2. Amazingly honest talk. Listened to it all, plus discussion. I am 62, Christian, married for 39 years (2 husbands!) Have gay friends, women couples, male couples, single gay friends who have had their hearts broken, trans gender friends, and love them all. They love me back and are equally supportive to me as we all have glitches in relationships !. That’s the last word in my book, love, acceptance, working together with kindness and establishing trust. If we could surmount all the hurdles that sidetrack us as Christians and avoid pointing the finger at each other the churches would be full.Jesus did not condemn any one group of people if my memory serves me correctly.As to the above comment regarding underwear mine always matches these days in case of illness or accident ! Gives one more confidence in A&E.

  3. We are who we are – individual – so gather your strength and be proudIt takes courage to break from the shackles imposed by the law of the crowdIf we’re meant to be sheep we’d be woolly, our instincts to herd would be strongBut the world would be a weaker place if we all hung around with the throng.What’s wrong with a chink in our armour? It’s human to err on our wayAs long as we learn life’s lessons, growing ever more wiser each dayWith wisdom comes more understanding that – until we walk in their shoesIt’s unjust to judge the next man and burden him with oft cruel views.

  4. I think the majority of ordinary people don’t give one jot over this as an issue – as long as its not hurting anyone else and the people concerned are happy and comfortable with the situation it ceases to be an issue. The only people who seem to be foaming at the mouth over this are the right wing media – and they are just doing it to sell newspapers in the main. There are many more greater things in life to be concerned about that people finding happiness in their lives. Lives are too short and too full of things which do affect you to worry about things that don’t – being human is not a crime.

  5. Pingback: 8 awful things that well meaning Christians say about gay people (part 1) | I ask for wonder

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