During some equality and diversity training at work today, I found myself thinking about my father. He was born in 1938, was from a thoroughly conservative family and went to public school and Oxford University. With that background you would be forgiven for thinking that the reason I thought of him was because he espoused views that were at odds with the concepts of inclusivity, access and diversity being discussed.
But you would be wrong. He had a passion for inclusiveness that was years ahead of its time. When the debate about the ordination of women was raging in the church of England, our house was festooned with tea towels and t-shirts carrying slogans like “A woman’s place is in the house…of bishops” and “God is an equal opportunities employer. Pity about the church.”
He was passionate about using inclusive language in his services, finding imaginative settings for hymns and prayers to avoid assigning a gender to either God or members of the congregation.
When, pre care in the community, his ministry included two institutions for people with severe learning difficulties, he found ways of setting parts of the communion service to secular music that the residents knew. If you’ve never sung “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to the tune of Lily Marlene then you haven’t lived.
When I adopted a vegan diet, his support was wholehearted and he experimented for days to develop a vegan pancake recipe, hard to come by pre-google.
I grew up knowing that whatever I wanted to do, I could do it, and that whoever I wanted to be, I could be it. He was a remarkable man, and I am incredibly lucky to have had him for my father.