"Last Saturday evening, I joined with others from London’s Soho Masses for a Christmas Carol Service at the Church of the Assumption and Saint Gregory, Warwick Street, followed by a great Christmas Party. The closing hymn, the always popular “Adeste Fideles” (which we sang, to my disappointment, in English) was particularly suitable for the occasion. It was written by John Wade, a choirmaster at that very church, where it was also first performed. As we sang, I began to reflect on just how appropriate it is that the regular Soho Masses for London’s LGBT Catholics take place in this particular church.
The history of the parish goes back to 1724, a time when Roman Catholics were unable to worship openly in England, but as a chapel of the Portuguese Embassy (and later the Bavarian Embassy), the church had diplomatic privilege, and offered a place of refuge from persecution for London’s Catholics. Later, the building was attacked and damaged in the anti-Catholic Gordon riots, but survived and was duly restored.
For LGBT London Catholics of today who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are prevented by their sexuality or gender identity from worshipping openly in other Catholic parishes, this church once again is a place of refuge. However, we continue to suffer “attack”, in the form of prayers levelled against us from across the street, by people opposed to our worship. Like the building itself, we will survive these attacks, and come through in the end, revitalized.
The name is also significant, combining two superficially unrelated patrons, both redolent of promise for those persecuted by the Church. “Saint Gregory” is the great papal reformer. As such, his name on the church where we meet may be taken as a symbol of the hope for reform of Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and pastoral approaches to sexual minorites which must surely come, and of which glimpses have been seen in recent years – not least, right here in the diocese of Westminster. Then there’s Our Lady of the Assumption, a particularly powerful symbol for me, as a South African.
Read more, at "Queering the Church"