In this session we were asked to: Look for the connections your Church community has with the world – where do people work, live, shop and play? What needs might you be able to address in simple service as you live out your faith everyday?
In an earlier post I said that 'loving my neighbour means to meet them where they are, to serve them according to their needs, and to practice tolerance, encourage mutual understanding, and to be just and fair....This is my song.' However, this is really just the chorus, the string that holds it all together and underpins what I do, or rather how I do it. When I look deeper at what this means I realise some of the verses might be a bit more difficult to sing.
All my life I have been on a physical journey, like Abraham. As both a child and an adult, I have moved around...a lot...and whilst it has not been quite the nomadic existance of Abraham, it hasn't been without it's difficulties, but it has been packed with colour and wonder. I have an open and enquiring mind, and the people I have met, studied or worked with have taught me so much. People, are people, are people. I believe we are all brothers and sisters under the heavens regardless of our race, colour or religion. I embrace difference in all it's forms,and believe everyone deserves to love and be loved. In the eyes of some my views may be too liberal, this is were the verses might get tricky. But if we are all made in God's image, and part of creation, surely if we reject someone, we reject creation itself?
However, coming back to my Church community...I believe I have been put here for a reason. We are part of a benefice of 10 churches which was recently formed under a new vicar. My own village is quite insular, like many of the other villages. They tend keep to themselves. Most people are retired, work on the farm, locally, or possibly in Buxton, 5 miles away. Attitudes also tend to be inward focussed. Last Harvest Festival the school chose to collect for the local food bank, and someone complained that it should have been distributed within the village. I have heard disparaging comments about refugees and people of colour...in church. Furthermore, there are tensions between families, church and chapel. I know I've shared some of this before.
So returning to the question at the top. How can I serve and what is my calling in this place, for this community? How can I influence attitudes about the wider world when they don't even get on with each other? HELP!!! I'm open to suggestions.
I am already serving at school as Clerk to Governors, and with the church as a PCC member and with social/fundraising events. I am also training to support worship in our church. I am trying to promote a better relationship between the chapel and church, and attend both chapel and church services. I have decided to actively seek to connect with the other churches in our benefice, and over Lent I will visit each one I have not yet been to. I will ask for God's help through prayer, and pray for the village when I'm walking the dog. I hope to organise a prayer walk with others in the spring. The church is currently not open during the day, and I would like to open it each week for a time or prayer, but tthis may not be practical for H&S reasons, so that might have to wait for now.
To truly sing my song will require the courage to stand up and challenge ideas and attitudes that are strongly entrenched, with compassion, love, forgiveness, and respect. I will need to be patient and non-judgemental. I will need to love my neighbour unconditionally, meet them where they are, serve them according to their needs, and to practice tolerance, encourage mutual understanding, and be just and fair. All of a sudden this seems quite scary!
Thank you both for your supportive comments. Sometimes it feels like an uphill struggle and I feel overwhelmed, and inadequate. When that happens I try to step back, pray, and pick myself up again. One day, one encounter, at a time, is how I think I need to go forward.
Thank you Phillip for bringing me back to the 4 habits of disciples. I am seeking fellowship both within the village, and more widely across the benefice. This is something which I have sorely missed in the last couple of years, made more difficult by Covid and being new to Derbyshire. I'm looking forward to the Lent group, and experiencing/sharing worship in some of the other benefice churches.
It feels as if you are already doing an awful lot to influence people, Amanda.
Hi Amanda, very insightful post, thank you. Your questions are great ones How can I serve and what is my calling in this place, for this community? How can I influence attitudes about the wider world when they don't even get on with each other? and one that I certainly grapple with on a regular basis - but I think you've answered them as well - you've been called into your community for a reason, and you know that from what you've said.
There are some challenges, and it does take courage (and patience as well as perseverance in my experience). It is too easy to take the less challenging path, plenty choose to, and that is their choice and possibly calling, but your last paragraph sums up perfectly to me how to approach, plus knowing that God is with you on this journey.
I've found in situations where change is difficult, other approaches to the ones you've noted in your post - taking small steps, plant a seed of an idea and see how it grows - pushing too fast I've found in my own community (rural like yours, where changes are often viewed with concern) doesn't work, take a small step and see how that goes, then take the next one. Listening and empathy I also focus on - why do others have that point of view? One tends to make assumptions and not until you ask the questions do you actually find out what is the reality. Not being defensive ( classic one for me in days gone by - be passionate about what you want to do, but be willing to take feedback and change tack if needed. I learnt the hard way on that one).
I also think back to the Dr Sri session on discipleship - one of the four habits particularly might be relevant - that of Fellowship - who around you can help you on this journey so it doesn't feel like it is just you.