Published: 30 November, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
A 300-YEAR-OLD nonconformist church in Islington is expected to be the first in the borough to provide a same-sex civil “wedding” – and the first gay couple to apply will get the service for free.
So said Rev Andrew Pakula, Minister at Newington Green Unitarian Church, this week when he announced that the church’s licence application to hold the ceremonies had been held up by the London Fire Authority. But it had finally lifted its “health and safety” objections .
Rev Pakula said: “There were a lot of bureaucratic objections by the fire service to our plan for gay partnerships ceremonies but they have been resolved. It was a crazy situation because we are already allowed to hold straight weddings in the church.
“To celebrate, we are giving the first couple to apply to have a same-sex partnership a free service, saving several hundred pounds.
“We can also recommend some excellent venues for the reception.”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), an early feminist writer, ran a school close to the church and was the mother of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.
Newington Green was home to radical reformer Richard Price, a charismatic nonconformist minister whose preachings went on to inspire the founders of the American Revolution.
The church is expected to pip to the post Union Chapel at Highbury, which is currently also applying for a licence to hold same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
Until last year the Unitarians refused to perform any legal weddings for any couple because of the then ban on same-sex unions.
Rev Pakula, added: “Things are gradually improving for same-sex partnerships but there is still a long way to go.
“It is still illegal to have a proper gay religious wedding.”
The church, built in 1708, can trace its roots back to a small group of Dissenters who gathered in the area in the 17th century. The oldest Unitarian church in London, it gives its creed as “freedom, reason and tolerance”.