Revellers in Manchester’s Gay Village were taken aback last week – when the Bishop of Manchester turned up among a group of LGBT volunteers.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Dr David Walker, is one of the most pro-LGBT voices within the senior ranks of the Church of England.
He has been vocal about being more loving towards the LGBT community – and took the opportunity last Friday night to show the love in person.
The Bishop became an honorary member of the LGBT Foundation’s Village Angels, who provide vital support services to people in distress on the gay scene.
He went out on patrol on Canal Street with the group, helping out people whose night had taken a turn for the worse.
During the eventful evening, the Bishop was with the Angels as they supported a man who was feeling suicidal, and prevented another man from jumping into the canal.
The Bishop said: “The Village Angels are a group of dedicated and committed volunteers who work so hard to keep people safe. I was struck by the respect shown to them by those who visit and work in the Village.
“The Village is an important space for the LGBT community, and whilst on patrol I met many people who are passionate about this place and its wellbeing. It is so much more than just a place to go for a night out.”
He added that a “surprising” number of people recognised him, despite appearing semi-incognito in a dark hoody and hi-vis vest.
The Angels patrol the Village every weekend from 9pm to 3am, providing friendly help, support and advice to people who have got into trouble.
Paul Martin OBE, LGBT Foundation Chief Executive, added: “We’re thrilled Bishop David was able to join the Angels out on patrol.
“He is a true ally of the LGBT community who puts his faith into practice in a way that is both inspirational and deeply human.
“Manchester’s Gay Village is renowned the world over as a place where people are free to be themselves, and for most people a night out in the Village is a fun, safe experience. But for some, a great night out can go wrong and that’s why the Angels are there.
“In their bright pink hi-viz jackets, they’re a visible, friendly face of the Village and an integral part of Manchester’s LGBT community. Most importantly of all, there are people alive today as a result of their vital work.”
Since the service began in 2012, thousands of Village visitors have been touched by an Angel. As well as providing simple support like giving directions, helping people to a taxi, or reconnecting lost friends, Angels regularly carry out life-saving interventions.
The LGBT Foundation project receives funding from Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, and works in close partnership with the emergency services, Village venues and doorstaff. Greater Manchester Police says that the presence of the Angels in the Village significantly reduces demand on policing services, allowing officers to respond more quickly to more incidents over the weekend.
The Bishop of Grantham made history earlier this month when he came out as gay – after a newspaper threatened to out him.