After training initially as an architect, Colin Coward was ordained in the Church of England and was involved in parish ministry before training as a psychotherapist. In 1995 he was involved in establishing Changing Attitude, and was its Director for 20 years – for which achievement he was awarded and MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Hours in 2014. In retirement he lives in Wiltshire, where he blogs at unadulteratedlove.net.
Mervyn Stockwood must have arrived pretty soon afterwards. And I knew perfectly well, fairly early on, that Mervyn was gay. No idea how that permeated into my knowledge, but it did. And by the time I was in my mid to late teens, I knew perfectly well that Southwark as a diocese in which there were many gay clergy and that it was clearly perfectly OK for gay people to be part of the church. But it was never talked about.
In the first week (of my architecture training course) we were divided into groups of five. So there was me, a woman my age and three other guys. It wasn’t until fifteen years later that I discovered that tow of the other guys were gay. We worked together closely all through that first year, and then for the following two years. None of us ever twigged that the others were gay, ever talked about it. I think that’s a sign of how invisible gay people who were not of the camp variety were back then. I didn’t have a conversation openly with somebody about being gay until my mother took in a lodger, when I was 27.
The Rector must have picked up that something in me had thought about ordination. So halfway thorough my three years there he said, look, what about it? Are you are you not going to think about being ordained? So I went away and I thought about it overnight and I think I knew the answer was going to be ‘yes’. And the reason was, if you can’t beat them, join them. I was so frustrated at the impotence of being a layperson and flowing with energy and ideas and deep involvement but I knew that in the end, I wasn’t going to be able to form the kind of parish and congregation that I intuitively wanted to.
I wondered (at the selection conference) if I was going to be asked about my sexuality, it was there in my consciousness all the way through. I wasn’t. I think I intuited it was there somehow in the background of questions or whatever, but actually, people really weren’t interested in it. The church wasn’t interested in whether I was gay or not.
You can hear Colin’s story here.