A letter from Steve - Our Rector
The Army's recruitment campaign hit the headlines this week. Gone are the old-style
advertisements promoting physical endeavour, excitement and challenge. In are the
new ads, focusing on the emotional aspects of life, genuinely encouraging people
to join regardless of gender, faith and sexual orientation.
It's part of the Army's belonging campaign. The voices we hear are real people who
already serve in the armed forces. "Find where you belong" is the recurring tag line.
But already the ads are having a mixed reaction even before it is known if they working
to increase the numbers applying.
Yet it is clear that the Army is speaking to genuine concerns, responding to something
that is significant for people. As the Army's website says "A sense of belonging
may sound like a small thing. Yet it fuels you as much as food and water, because
it doesn't just feed your body, it feeds your mind and soul." A sense of belonging,
connecting with others, is what keeps people healthy, gives them value, brings them
hope and affirmation.
It got me thinking of our dining tables which only a few weeks ago would have been
piled high with the left over debris of Christmas. I reflected that in our homes
this table is a symbol of belonging. Over Christmas, regardless or your age, gender,
faith or sexual orientation, everyone is welcome. It's a space where we eat traditionally
and sometimes experimentally. It's a place where we laugh and weep, where we converse
lightly and deeply, seriously and ridiculously. It's a community space where everyone
can belong, knowing they will be taken seriously and loved unconditionally. Where
new ideas are explored, old ideas are revisited, new opportunities discussed, resolutions
When we invite people to gather around our table, in a way, we invite them to become
a part of our family. We invite them into our community, into a place where we can
love, cherish, rebuke and encourage one another. We invite them to a place of equality,
where each can have and use their own voice. We invite them to a safe place, a place
which allows both success and failure, sorrow and joy.
When I looked at my table, I reflected on the incidents where Jesus is found at a
table. It's never the food that it is remembered but the life stories that are reported.
In each of the "table" stories we find Jesus creating a space where people belong,
where they find new life, new purpose, new value.
My favourite is when Jesus invites himself to sit round Zacchaeus' table. This hated
taxman sits with Jesus, listens to Jesus, is part of the conversation. He discovers
that he is loved, and he is accepted regardless of who he is or what he has done.
He makes a radical resolution, and commits to a new behaviour: "Look, Lord! Here
and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody
out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." – Luke 19 v8.
Belonging changes us. Belonging, the safe place in community with Jesus and others,
changed Zacchaeus from a greedy man into a generous man.
This year we are planning to be part of HOPE 2018 – it's a national movement that
is all about getting out into our community and inviting people to come along, and
to belong. Sometimes we will be inviting them to worship with us, especially at
Christmas, Easter or Harvest, and at other times to join us around the table for
some games, and a plate of curry, pie and peas, or hot pot.
We may not see such radical change round our own tables that Jesus saw with Zacchaeus,
but during this year if we invite people to join us round our table, if we spend
time together, if we do life together, we can help create a sense of belonging.
I hope you will think and pray about the people around you that you might invite
to our church activities. And do keep praying that together we can make the space
to help people find where they belong?