The With Full Conviction project seeks to provide spiritual resources for a peaceable community, through our plays and online prayer courses. Our drama company was set up in 2014 with the aim of reaching those who have become alienated from Christianity or have never seen it as having relevance to their lives. Our project has an ecumenical focus, and is based on those small and little-known theatre companies that included both Quakers and Anglicans – some of whom were conscientious objectors – and which toured the country during the 1939-45 war. Through performing in diverse spaces and engaging with the community in dynamic ways they were successful in reaching a wide audience with religious drama.
Originally written and developed in 2016, our play With Full Conviction tells the story of three marginalised and broken people – one of whom is gay – who encounter one another, and find not only forgiveness and healing, but also a deeper sense of belonging. The play engages with themes of Christianity and mysticism, using contemporary storytelling and language to make these themes accessible to everyone. Performances are followed by a discussion and a short contemplation. Since 2016 a paid acting team has performed With Full Conviction eleven times to over 300 people. Since the circumstances of Coronavirus have made live performance impossible, we have made the play available for free online, and are looking to do future presentations of the play on Zoom
The author, Neil Macdonald, undertook the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises early in 2011 and was finally and effectively convinced that God did not have a problem with his sexuality, whatever a number of his fellow Christians might believe. Neil also took part in the “Shared Conversations” of the Church of England and became aware that there was great need for a space where LGBTI+ people could enjoy contemplative prayer with others. Neil says:
We live in dark and fearful times, and we need to reflect on two things. The first is that perfect love casts out fear. The second is that the first Gentile convert to the church of Christ – back in the first century AD – was a man from Africa, who was one of a sexual minority. And the Ethiopian Eunuch, as he came to be known – and who would have been excluded from the Old Testament church by virtue of Deuteronomy 23.1 – was to find that by the power of the Spirit – or Light – the outlook of those around him was changed so as to include him. His story is an inspiration for our play, along with that of Ignatius of Loyola. It is in relationships of love, however manifested, that we have glimpses of the Kingdom of God.”
Since the beginning of June, considerable progress has been made in developing our online presence. With the assistance of a Social Media Coordinator, we have reached out to new audiences spanning Christian denominations in the UK and USA. More than 100 people have listened to an audio version of the play which is available on our website. Our free course Remembering Without Ceasing, on four 14th century English mystics, has been successfully held on Zoom, and been joined by people from both the UK and the USA. Sessions of our contemplative prayer course, Not in Word Only, which is based on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises that inspired the project, take place on Sundays at 18.30 GMT and on Thursday at 15.30 GMT. You are very welcome to join us at any time, and catch up with a PDF of the course book that will be provided. For further information and to sign up for free, please see our website.
You can also stay up to date with what we’re doing by liking our Facebook page.
We are now developing a second play which is an imaginative reflection on the story of the possessed man in St Mark’s Gospel, which has also has characters who are gay, and uses contemporary language and issues. To find out more about this play and support its development, see our website.
Starting in the New Year, we will be offering Zoom presentations to churches, faith groups and smaller charities, both local and national. These events would comprise a performance – or rehearsed reading – of the play, followed by a structured discussion and a short contemplative exercise. We would encourage our supporters to join in, and would invite those of the church, faith group or charity to do the same. We would ask for donations in return for a Zoom link.