Norwich chapel hopes to welcome same-sex civil partnership ceremonies

A chapel in Norwich could become one of the first religious premises in Britain to hold civil partnership ceremonies.

The Octagon Unitarian Chapel's committee is looking into applying for a licence to allow same-sex couples to hold ceremonies in its Colegate-based building.

The group will follow Unitarians in Liverpool and Manchester in being able to hold ceremonies if its bid is approved.

Kate McKenna, lay worship leader, said: 'We are investigating getting a licence for civil partnerships and we currently do same-sex blessings.

'I think we celebrate love as Unitarians and we don't get hung up about it's origin. People here are very supportive of same-sex relationships, as they are of any other.

'I find it refreshing as I don't want to go somewhere where it's made an issue of.

'We are very relaxed and very open. A lot of people have said they have found a real home.'

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The Norwich Unitarians want to build on their growing congregation numbers, with a regular 75 coming along to Sunday services while more youngsters are also visiting the chapel.

Iris Voegeli, chair of the congregation, said: 'What's happened in the last three or four years is what we call the Sunday group has grown from maybe three or four children to a little more than 20.

'We get more weddings every year as people like the way we do weddings. We have no set plan of doing a wedding. We say 'it's your day, how do you want to celebrate it?'.'

Congregation member and mum-of-three Ali Chapman said she had been visiting the chapel with her family since last Christmas.

She said: 'It's the friendliness of coming and when the children get here they are not taught specific things.

'It's very open for children to think for themselves.'

Fellow congregation member Bob Budd added: 'My wife was brought up Catholic and I wasn't and we were struggling to find somewhere that suited our needs so neither of us felt uncomfortable.

'The point of coming here is it's about debate and no-one has the answers.'

richard.wheeler@archant.co.uk

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