I loved visiting the historic Baroque churches in the City of London, close to where I live. I would often go and sit, admiring the architecture and savouring the atmosphere. I appreciated their tranquillity and felt reinvigorated when I left. From October 2013, I started to feel there was more to this than beautifully arranged columns, architraves and cornices. I was overcome by a sense of spirituality and began to reflect on what I knew of the Bible and ecclesiastical history. I studied History and History of Art at university, which gave me some knowledge of how the Christian faith has grown over the centuries. In November 2013 I was inspired, when sitting in St Lawrence Jewry, to ask if I could have a Bible to take home and read. I sat in the pews at the left, about three-quarters of the way down the nave. Light bathed the white interior of the church, its uncompromising clarity reflecting strength and hope. It was overcast outside, but I had a sense of purpose. The churchwarden gave me a Bible and this is still the Bible I use today. I sleep with my Bible next to my bed, or under my pillow. I think of the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost protecting me and am happier and safer.
The City of London is not just dotted with churches, but many other sites of religious significance. There is a beautiful shrine to the Christian martyrs who suffered during the Reformation in Smithfield Market. Dappled sunlight shines on pink and grey granite, sacrifice and love sparkling from gilded details. For me it represents permanence, protection and salvation-it is a place of contemplation and piety. I love that the memorial is set into the wall of St Bartholomew's Hospital. The site of Smithfield Market was formerly London's main execution ground. A place noted for suffering is now one of healing. The Corporation of London have placed two benches by the shrine and I love to sit there and write.
I have been asked if I had any Damascene moments. There were two instances which stand out as pivotal. Jeffrey John, in "The Meaning in the Miracles", writes how individuals can experience their own miracles. I had turning points which were of decisive importance. In May 2014 I was once again experiencing doubt in my life. I was on a bus and the sun was shining. I looked into the distance, a gleaming Wren spire fixing a vanishing point. I was compelled to commit to Christianity. The road ahead was distinct and unimpeded. There was a longing from within for the love of Christ. At the shrine in Smithfield I had an even more profound experience. I reached through the decorative wrought iron grill to touch the granite surface. As my hand passed over the moulded flames my body shook with piety. I looked heavenwards and felt a sense of completeness and protection. I wanted to share this experience with you to demonstrate how passionate my faith is. Christianity can provide energy and direction for LGBT people and, in turn, the Church of England can be enriched by LGBT worshippers.
I have my own variation on having been "born again", although there has not been a complete transformation of my values and outlook. There is a perfect fit between the ethos of equality and diversity which underpinned my life before Christianity became so vital to me. My identity has been reinforced and, like a tree in spring, I have blossomed. It is this energy which is at the heart of my LGBT faith message. To be "born again" in the Evangelical Movement implies not having fully participated in Jesus' message before and then to undergo an enlightening process or revelatory experience which clarifies the believer's relationship with God. I was experiencing some of the core Christian beliefs and living in accordance with these, but in a secularised form. I was more than a cultural Christian. I lived my life in a way which was empathetic, respectful, gentle and charitable. Faith has taken these foundations, regenerated me and is progressing the way in which I live my life.
It was when I began attending St John's in Waterloo that I knew I was at home. I have always found the Church of England to be welcoming and inclusive, although I am aware that other gay men have had negative experiences. I attend church at least once a week. The Sunday service at 10.30 am is always great and I would encourage anyone, particularly from the LGBT community, who is interested in faith to come along! Promoting LGBT Christianity is one of the main components of my human rights agenda. My identity as a happy, confident and successful HIV positive gay man, co-infected with Hep C, has been enhanced by incorporating Christianity into my life. Christianity has unified the underlying dynamics in my life to create a complete being.