I don’t know how much you follow what is going on in the wider church but you are probably aware that there are over 650 Anglican bishops currently gathered in Lambeth for the conference and they come from all parts of the world, with varying cultures and outworkings of their faith.
You may have seen some of the news coming out of the conference as well, particularly around the call on Human Dignity which includes the issue of human sexuality. I’m not planning to write a debate on that so don’t worry! But it is a powerful reminder of how the Anglican Communion, and therefore the Church of England, can be such a broad and diverse community.
It can be quite easy in our villages to end up meeting people who are like us and the people who go to church are like us. Of course we are all individuals with personalities but we are usually attracted towards people who have similar views to us or who behave in similar ways. When I studied psychology, we spent a lot of time discussing ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ – those who agree with us and those who disagree with us.
The challenge for us in the Church is that we should be trying to be part of the out group. Jesus did not command us to make everyone believe what we believe or to make everyone agree with us. His commands were simple – love God and love your neighbour. Even the man who asks who is my neighbour is shown that our neighbour can be anyone, even someone who might be in our ‘out-group’.
As our Bishops meet, they are learning, just as we are, what it means to be part of a Church where we hold fundamentally different views but about the same God. The challenge for them, and for us, is to learn how to live with that difference. In our own parish here, we have three wonderful churches and four very welcoming villages. But I suspect many of us have a church, a village, or perhaps both, which we like to think of as ‘ours’.
Being grouped together with others, whether by choice or not, can be immensely challenging but it can also help remind us that we are all made in God’s image. No-one has received any more of God’s image than anyone else and no-one has received any less of God’s image than anyone else. We are all equal before God.
There will be those of us who like to avoid disagreements and those of us who seek them out in order to ‘win’ but the challenge to all of us is that we should be able to disagree with our Christian brothers and sisters and still accept that we believe in the same God. The same challenge faces the bishops gathered at Lambeth this week.
It is a radical unity. It is a radical love. That is what Christ calls us to. Let’s be radical!
Services during August
7th August – 11:00am Parish Communion @ St. James-the-Less, Stubbings
14th August – 10:30am Parish Communion @ St. Mary the Virgin, Hurley
21st August – 11:00am Parish Communion (BCP) @ St. James-the-Less, Stubbings
28th August – 9:15am Parish Communion @ St. John the Evangelist, Littlewick
Although I am away on holiday Morning Prayer is still happening in our churches at 9:15am
Morning Prayer each week at 9:15am
Wednesday St. James-the-Less, Stubbings
Thursday St. John the Evangelist, Littlewick Green
Friday St. Mary the Virgin