Out at Work: Father Lee Taylor, Vicar

Being yourself at work is something that LGBTQ+ people continue to wrestle with. As part of our Out at Work series, Vada meets Father Lee Taylor, who is Priest-in-Charge of the Llangollen Group of Churches in North Wales.

Having thought about being a priest since an early age, Father Lee Taylor went to work in pubs after leaving university, before joining the priesthood. Lee’s career would take him from Oxford to Essex, to South London, before his current post in North Wales. It would be through his work at Southwark Cathedral in London that Lee would meet his partner, with the pair being the first same-sex couple in the UK to receive an official blessing by the Church in Wales.

Vada: Why did you decide to work in your field?

Lee: It was towards the end of my time at primary school when I started to think about what it might be like to be a priest. I was spiritual even way back in those early formative years. I remember experiencing a real sense of “otherness” or the “holy” when I was sat in church. Watching every action of the priest at the altar, I was transfixed, lost in the thought of how awesome it was (in the true sense of the word) that this ritual act of remembering Jesus had been carried on through the centuries.

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In my early teens, I took an interest in sacred music and learnt to sing and play the organ. Having an interest in music and the arts, it’s no surprise that I encountered many gay people. Let’s be honest, gay people have great flair, imagination and creative energy! But I wasn’t ‘out’ as a teenager. The deeper part of me knew I was gay but this was the early 1990’s and same-sex attraction was not something openly talked about or affirmed as it is today.

Where did you work before joining the priesthood?

When I left university, I worked behind the bar in a few local pubs. My mum was a publican and I also used to help out at her pub from time to time. I think pubs have definitely had an influence on me. I do enjoy a good pint of real ale. My cousin, having a laugh, once said to me, “You’re the only gay bloke I know who drinks bitter!”

Where did you train?

In the early 2000’s, I worked for a time at Southwark Cathedral where I met my partner. The cathedral has always been radically inclusive, celebrating and affirming LGBTQ+ people from all walks of life. It is known to many as the ‘Pink Cathedral.’ After my time at Southwark, I went on to train for the priesthood in Oxford. From there I have served in parishes in Essex, South London and now in North Wales.

What reaction did you get when you came out?

I came out during my early twenties, while at university. I have never felt the need to go out of my way to announce my sexuality to anyone. I think this is best done naturally and whenever the circumstances require it. In my work I meet lots of people in many different contexts. For example, I often meet people I am preparing for marriage, baptism or in preparation for a funeral. In the course of our introductions, I am often asked questions along the lines of, “Are you married?” or “Do you have a wife?” or “Are you a family man?” The answers I give to those questions are “No, no and yes, I have a partner and two dogs!” I have never directly experienced any negative or hostile reactions when I add, “..and his name is..” Sadly, I know this has not been the case for many of my clergy colleagues.

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How is the Church adapting and evolving when it comes to LGBTQ+ topics?

In 2021, my partner and I were the first same-sex couple in the UK to receive an official blessing by the Church in Wales. It was a special service that took place shortly after the formal approval, by the bishops of the Church in Wales, of a liturgy for the Blessing of same-sex Civil Marriage/Partnerships in church. It was a positive move in Wales but there is still a way to go in the Church of England. The Church does need to adapt and evolve, not only to meet the contemporary social and cultural needs of modern society but also to reflect the true message of Jesus: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’

Father Lee Taylor is Priest-in-Charge of the Llangollen Group of Churches in North Wales. You can follow him on Twitter/X here.

About Hadley Stewart

Hadley Stewart is Features Editor at Vada Magazine.