A KENDAL chapel has performed a landmark ceremony, becoming the first place of worship in the town to wed a same-sex couple.

Kass Conroy and Keysia Mattocks tied the knot at the Kendal Unitarian Chapel, surrounded by family and friends.

The couple, who live in Windermere, said it was wonderful to feel like 'a normal couple.'

"We didn't realise we were the first, our photographer told us," said Kass. "It's nicer because you get the feeling that you're actually doing it (getting married) properly rather than just in a registry office."

However, despite the liberal approach to same-sex marriage that the Unitarians have taken, controversy still surrounds the issue within the Church of England.

A report compiled by the House of Bishops last week called for the church to maintain the position that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.

However, the General Synod of the Church of England, comprising of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity, voted 'not to take note' of the report and a stalemate now exists.

The Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Revd Robert Freeman, said that although he agreed with the House of Bishops, that marriage should be between a man and a woman, there needed to be a greater culture of acceptance within the church.


"Over the last 30 years the church has been quite coy on reflecting on how relationships have shifted," he said. "What it means to be sexual has changed and the church has been sat very silent on that.

"I think the bishops were saying that the church has not got a good record of how it has sought to welcome people of all sorts.

"It should be a place for people whose lives are not all sorted out, it's too easy to be holier than thou. The church is a place of healing and recognition and hope."

Kass and Keysia, who met at Manchester Pride in 2008, said that it often felt easier to be themselves in the city environment.

"We still do experience discrimination by certain people but we always will," Kass said. "I don't talk to my grandparents anymore because they're Roman Catholic. But you can't change who you are.

"We get to be ourselves when we go to Manchester. We don't have to hide holding hands down the street or having a kiss in public whereas round here, with it being a small place, news travels."

However, the couple said that the Rev Amanda Reynolds at the chapel welcomed them and their non-traditional dress code with 'open arms'.

For Ms Reynolds the occasion was made all the more special as it was the first wedding ceremony that she had performed.

"Every wedding is unique," said Ms Reynolds, an interfaith minister. "Some want a traditional Christian wedding but don't want to go to the Church of England for whatever reason so we tailor it to the couple - whether they're man or woman or two men and two women. Everyone is welcome.

"The place was so full of love. Just two women who wanted to be married, it was important to them. It was lovely. Very special for me and for the chapel too."

Unitarians do not ascribe to any singular religion but rather place emphasis on individual experiences and seek to 'share faith together in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect'.

When same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014 each individual Unitarian congregation was allowed a vote on whether or not same-sex couples would be welcome to marry in their church.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, believes that the Unitarians have been at the 'leading edge of social change'.

"We regard homosexual relationships as being equivalent to straight people's relationships," he said. "We are leading the way and I hope that in time the Church of England will come round and be prepared to offer that."

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome was not available to comment but a spokesperson said that his views were reflected in a statement from Archbishop Justin Welby.

"We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence," the statement said.

"The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon."

Jonny Gios, a former community worker at Sandylands Methodist Church and evangelical Christian, said that he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman and that was a view he would not be 'shifting on'.

"There's thousands and thousands of other Christians who believe the same thing," he said. "I respect those people who disagree but that's the way it's got to be.

"I base my life on the Bible and I'm not going to change that. My faith is my engine and the things I do are to communicate God's love in word and action. I have homosexual friends and work with homosexuals. I think the church has to embrace them. It doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with it."

However, John Campbell, the honorary treasurer for Kendal Unitarian Chapel, said that he hoped Kass and Keysia's wedding sent out a welcoming message.

"I hope that it will send out the message that we are here for everybody, for the whole community, regardless of creed, sexual orientation or anything else," he said. "That we support people, we are here to support people - not only same-sex marriage but all marriages.

"When we say respect and tolerance we mean I will try to understand and I will accept and that your differences are as valid as anybody else's. It's the freedom to be who you are."