Creating an LGBT+ affirming Christian community

  • Date

    Wed 18 Jan 23

OTN Coordinator Kieran Bohan with Revd Dr Sara Batts-Neale and a group of people.

A new partnership between a local church and a national charity has been set up in Colchester, thanks to a University of Essex connection.

The Coordinator of the Open Table Network, a growing partnership of Christian communities across England and Wales which welcome and affirm LGBT+ people, visited Colchester on Sunday 8 January to speak at the launch of Open Table Colchester, 30 years after he graduated in the town.

Kieran Bohan, who was awarded a BA in Literature in 1992, was invited by the Revd Dr Sara Batts-Neale, Anglican Chaplain to the University of Essex and Associate Priest in the Parish of Greenstead.

Sara explains: ‘I’ve heard so many stories from people who felt excluded from church because of their sexuality or gender. As an ally I have committed to creating an inclusive chaplaincy for all staff and students. Open Table felt like an obvious extension of that commitment. The church in Greenstead is a natural fit and so supportive of this new community.’

The celebration service was held at St Matthew’s Church, Harwich Road, as Kieran reflected on the story of the Open Table Network, which began as a gathering of just six people in Liverpool in June 2008, and is now a charity supporting 31 communities across England and Wales, with more to come in 2023.

Kieran says: ‘It’s a joy to return to the place where I studied to support this community. I would have loved to know that a gathering like this existed when I was a student here.’

After graduation, Kieran completed a PGCE in Primary Education and taught in London and Oxfordshire before beginning to train for Roman Catholic priesthood. He completed three of six years, then left following a crisis, as he came to terms with his sexuality. Kieran is now married to Warren – their civil partnership in May 2012 was the first to be registered in a place of worship in the UK.

The Open Table Colchester community meets on the second Sunday of each month at St Matthew’s Church, Harwich Road, Colchester. Doors open 4pm for refreshments, with a simple communion service at 4.30pm. Everyone is genuinely welcome. For more information, email

You can find out more about the Open Table Network by visiting their website.