A lesbian couple claim they were forced out of their church after they were spotted holding hands during a service. Kersten Pegden and Nina Lawrence said that other members of the congregation at St Nicholas Anglican church in Corfe Mullen, Dorset, thought their behaviour was 'overtly sexual'. They said other couples within the congregation held hands and they felt it was their sexuality that had influenced the complaints.
Miss Pegden, 38, had attended the church for many years. She separated from her husband last September and is now going through a divorce. She began a relationship with Miss Lawrence , 31, last November but the new relationship had split the congregation of mainly elderly people, Miss Pegden said.
Miss Pegden has told how her daughter Emily, 12. has left the church choir and her son Elliot, 14, is no longer a server at the church that attracts up to 70 worshippers each Sunday.
She said: 'The vicar, who is a woman, wanted to know the details about my divorce, how long it was going to be, and the fact it had dragged on too long.
'And she said members of the congregation said that during hymns we were dishonouring God because they said we were singing the hymns to each other, and that we were overtly sexual with each other. 'The church says it accepts gay people as long as they are not practising.
'As soon as I had a partner they knew we were practising, but they can't refuse entry to anyone. 'Instead they said we must not associate with each other while we were at church. They said it was our choice. But it was an impossible choice.
'They said even the way we looked at each other was not acceptable. 'And as I was not divorced from my husband I was seen to be openly adulterous as well.' 'I said all we do is hold hands. I pointed out there is an elderly couple who hold hands. It's no more sexual than if a straight couple did it.
'These people who are watching us, instead of worshipping, are the ones dishonouring God.' Miss Lawrence, said: 'I have been out for 13 years and I've never had this reaction.' In a statement, a spokesman for St Nicholas Church said: 'St Nicholas welcomes people from a variety of backgrounds and gives private pastoral care to those in need.
'Issues have arisen with members of the congregation which are being addressed compassionately.' Miss Pegden has written a letter to the vicar, Rev Pamela Walker, telling her why she was leaving the church, which she has attended for four years.
The letter included the line: 'I have spent 25 years hiding and do not wish to continue that now.' The couple, who are both carers, now attend another church.
Article: 14th May 2010 www.dailymail.co.uk
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