An excited in anticipation koala…

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Man alive! I can’t believe all that is going on right now. After months of fighting SAD and numerous bugs in the last few days I’ve felt a real turn around. I’m waking up in the morning not feeling so horrible as I have done for months. I have a bit of energy. I’m feeling happy.

And now the busyness REALLY begins.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some really exciting messages. Firstly, from the girl I shared a room with on my South Africa trip. My friend has been living in Nigeria for the last few years, and I hadn’t heard from her for ages. I actually worried that maybe she’d fallen out with me. I was totally praying about her, and like 2 weeks later I got a message on facebook from her saying she was going to be in Scotland in June and did I want to meet up? YES! We haven’t seen each other since we said goodbye to each other in Durban almost 4 years ago. I’m so excited to have the chance to catch up with her in person.

The next exciting message was that I had been chosen to be part of the first batch of people to be trained as tutors for a new pregnancy counselling qualification being written by an organisation I’ve worked with in the past. At first I thought it wasn’t going to be possible because it involved a trip to Basingstoke in a few weeks time. My work have agreed to help fund my travel, someone has given me a bed in London (no planes or 4 a.m. starts!) and it mercifully fell on a Wednesday which is NOT a Senior Section night. I do have to do another qualification which I’ll likely do through the local college (community college to my friends in USA) in the Autumn. I had thought I’d be able to get funding for the fees through the Scottish ILA (Individual Learning Account) scheme as I’m on such a low income. It turns out the rules have changed, and because I have a university degree I cannot get ILA funding. :(  So now I’m looking for another solution, but as everything has fallen into place so far, I’m hoping the rest of it will too. I’m also concerned that last year they did the evening classes on Wednesday evenings – which is a guiding night for me.

And the third exciting message was that I have the opportunity to attend the Christian Surfers Conference in Polzeath, Cornwall. Another thing I hope will fall into place, as my flat in Aberdeen is sucking a lot of money out my bank account this month, plus I’m booked on a counselling training day on the Thursday. And the last night of Guides is on the Monday we’d get back. The Edinburgh Soul Surfers crew look set to all be going and I’d hate to be the only one to miss out.

I’ve also been getting to meet some really cool people through something called Common Good Edinburgh. I was invited to be part of the group before Christmas, and met everyone for the first time in January. Part of my role is discovering stories of people who are finding creative solutions to the challenges of life for people in our city and its surrounding region. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say and not say about everything, but you’ll know how much I love meeting new people, getting inspired and helping good things to happen! I’m learning loads being a part of it, and meeting people I wouldn’t meet in my usual walk of life.

And so that’s me. It’s so nice to be able to share this and not be moaning about being ill. I realise my blog has been quite neglected, but I guess I’ve been either in my sick bed or running about living life without having much time to sit down, reflect and write about it. I imagine come summer, I’ll have lots more to share too!

Quote of the Week – Week 9

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A huge problem in our society is loneliness. I hear all the time people who feel they have no friends, who sit at home lonely wishing they were out socialising, people who struggle on believing no one cares or just that they don’t even consider that there is a community to be had on their doorstep.

Last year, Callie (someone online I’m only really beginning to get to know!) had this fantastic blog link-up series on Friendship. It was interesting to read other people’s posts on the subject of friendship – both starting and maintaining them.

I think friendship is powerful. I guess I grew up in the era of shows like Friends and Dawson’s Creek which showed these unbelievably strong community friendships that were family. I mean Ross’s friends stayed in that waiting room all night while his ex wife gave birth to his first son. There was no way any of them would be left homeless on the street if one of them lost their jobs. When Dawson’s Dad died, all his friends were at his father’s funeral – even Pacey despite the fact they hadn’t really spoken since their fallout. When Jack finally came out as gay, his friends all had his back against bullying teachers and people who wanted to discriminate against him because of his sexual orientation. Even the super conservative bible bashing Grams who quickly put the gossipy homophobic Ty in his place.

I don’t know about others of my generation, but I wanted those kind of family-bond friendships like I saw on TV.

When I became a Christian, I realised those kind of friendships were biblical. Jesus and his crew spend a lot of time in the homes of their friends, eating together, rejoicing together, in fear together, praying together, mourning together. I quickly realised though that due to media and culture of our western society – where we judge each other on what we do, what we wear, how we enjoy ourselves – that creating those friendships wouldn’t be easy. It would take hard work, and probably mockery!

It meant being a friend.

It meant opening your mind.

It meant not choosing your friends on their fashion choices.

It meant opening your home.

It meant opening up your diary.

It meant sharing your phone number.

It meant sharing your past, present and future.

It meant honesty.

It meant choosing not to automatically be offended before trying to understand.

I spent a long, long time being lonely and insecure that I had no friends. Until one day in 2005 when I got diagnosed with mumps. My face was swollen, I felt pretty awful, I was so hungry and I was frustrated at being quarantined during such an important time of my university education. And I realised that despite all this I was content. Why? I had an amazing group of friends that were my family. Every day my friends text or visited it (they had, unlike me, been vaccinated against mumps). They lent me hand blenders and brought me fresh fruit and veg. They rejoiced with me on the day I was ‘un-quarantined’ – we cheered as I crossed the threshold of my flat to the outside world after 10 days! I realised in that week that life could suck as much as it wanted but there was nothing life could throw at me where I wouldn’t have a supportive bunch of people encouraging me through it.

One key thing though – I was a friend to them, and they were a friend to me.

Some people will not be your friend, so don’t waste too much time trying to be friends with the ‘cool’ people. And if someone is being your friend, why not return that and be a friend to them?

What does it mean to you to be a friend?

Growing roots…

I was at church this morning, and an example used in the sermon prickled a little bit on me. They were talking about Christians who blend into their community so that no one can tell they are Christians – and the words ‘they go become scout troop leaders‘ was used.

It made me stop and go - is that what people think of me becoming a Guider?

So I wanted to explain a little  bit why I decided to go back into Girlguiding.

First of all, Girlguiding was a key part of my life – almost as much as dancing – from age 5 to 18. When I was 10, my Mum and stepfather bought a house so I could get into the catchment area for a better high school than the one I should have gone to. I was academic, and was bullied from a young age because I much preferred reading books to trying cigarettes and sneaking alcohol into children’s playparks on a Friday evening. Where I grew up, a lot of kids experimented with alcohol from age 10. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal until I went to high school. I was nervous because I knew nobody going into my high school. Turned out our new nextdoor neighbour was a Guider, and she invited me to go to her Guides. Automatically I met several girls in my soon-to-be high school, and two girls who were going to be in my year. One of those girls incidentally was a Christian and became a very good friend of mine. Anyway. It meant that I got to become part of community before I moved there – and it made the move much easier.

When I became a Christian, I stopped Guiding soon after because I ended up involved with church-run youth work, and eventually this led into me getting a job in Community Education. All my spare time was taken up by uni, church outreach and socialising with friends. When I moved back to Edinburgh, I moved around a lot. I became part of a church. Within a few weeks, I was involved with worship and youth work again. I didn’t have much time for anything else. And my hope was that I would be able to move into my own place back in the area where I grew up and the majority of my friends live.

4 years in Edinburgh and I realised that it wasn’t going to happen – at least not any time soon.

Trying to part of two communities where I didn’t physically live was exhausting. I realised I was fighting against reality and I had to accept where I was. I remembered reading about the Israelites in exile, and how God told them to build roots while they were in exile.

I left church for a while and took stock at what I was putting my energy into. I met some people from Girlguiding Scotland at a freshers week event I was working at a year before that. I knew they needed volunteers, and I had really missed Guiding!

So I contacted them and waited. Last summer, they got in touch and I found out they had a Guide Unit just down the road from me needing a new volunteer.

And the rest they say…is history!

I’m now getting to know people in the community where I live. Girls come round to my door to drop off forms and money for trips. I go on the bus and see people I know. I was standing with my neighbours remembering those who had been killed in war on Remembrance Sunday. I’m discovering other ways to know and be involved in serving my community.  It’s a bit disconcerting at times, because in the last 4 years I’ve gotten used to complete anonymity going home. That is no longer guaranteed. I was horrified a few months ago to realise when I woke up after falling asleep on the bus that one of our Guides was on the same bus and she probably saw me head slumped against the window, mouth wide open… (classy).

For me going back into Girlguiding was making difference in girls’ lives. I love that they get to be girls but they get to do everything the boys do too! I love seeing them gain skills, confidence, self-esteem. I love seeing other members of the community encouraged to see young people serving. And it was also about being involved in the place where I live. I now realise how much my Guiders growing up gave to us and the energy involved – I appreciate everything they did. And now, it’s my turn.

The other benefit, is that I’m getting to know the other leaders too. We all live relatively close to each other, and we are building friendships.

I chose to start growing roots in my community.

Girlguiding was just the vehicle in which I’ve been able to do that. :)

Plus, all my friends tell me that it doesn’t take long before you find out I’m a bit ‘weird’ and ‘different’ or that I’m a ‘Jesus freak’. And I’m good with that. I hope that no matter where you find me, you’ll know who I am, what my values are and that I don’t choose my friends based on whether they believe in God or not!

More than friends

In a week of catching up with some of my friends, one friend asked me a very wise question:

How do we make our friendships truly authentic?

One of the concepts that Jud and Mike talked about in a book that they wrote is ‘Character Creep’. You probably don’t remember, but I wrote about one of my challenges with character creep that occurred on my way home from a holiday in Cornwall two years ago.

We talked a little about this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched many friends and relatives slip down a slippery slope. The worst is when you find that your friend or relative is at the bottom of the slope and you didn’t even realise that he/she was slipping.

Like your friend being sectioned, and it’s only then you find out she’s been self harming and suffering from bulimia for months and attempted suicide a couple of times. How did I not see something was wrong?

Or maybe your relative is taken to court accused of fraud, and you begin to realise things that you brushed off as you being ‘ridiculous’ suddenly make a whole lot of sense. If I’d challenged them on it, would they have told me the truth?

Perhaps your friend has been having an inappropriate relationship with a person, and it’s just something you couldn’t have imagined them ever getting involved in. Why didn’t I realise?

The thing is, we all have our secrets and the stuff we get tempted by that causes us to thank our stars that nobody on this planet can read our minds. We know right and wrong, but sometimes we struggle to make the right choice. And occasionally circumstances make it way too easy to take the path we know is not going to do us any good in the long run.

How then, do we build the kind of friendships where someone might pull us back off the dodgy track?

As I thought about it (out loud, as us extraverts tend to do) I realised the question was not ‘How do we build friendships where we can ask the challenging questions‘ but ‘How do we build the friendships where someone feels they can confess to us‘.

I’m not sure I have the answers to that question, and I’m almost definite that there is no formula that can be followed to create that kind of friendships.

I do know that I have had that kind of friendship. One was my best friend in high school – the only one I told that I was pregnant because I was too ashamed to admit it to anyone else. And I had a whole bunch of those friends at my church in Aberdeen. They earned the right to challenge me, but the also proved themselves trustworthy of confessing to because of their supportive and non-judgmental attitude (for which I’m very grateful).

Do you have that kind of friendship with someone, and what helped you get to that level of transparency in your relationship with them?

 

The silver lining gifts

On a regular basis, I get platitudes from well-meaning folks that can make me feel like I should be bothered about things that don’t bother me.

The increasingly common one is older people in church who randomly come up to me that they are praying for God to bring me a good husband. I have to try not to laugh when I’ve heard things like ‘Oh, yes, you know in a couple of years, you’ll be married and coming into church with your new baby…‘ It’s not that I’m against being married or being a mother. It’s just that I don’t think I need to be. I personally believe there are more important things to be talking to God about than begging him for a husband, car, children and white picket fence.

Anyway, I digress.

Let me be honest…there are times when I really struggle with how my life is now. My friend was in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, and commented on how shocking he found it that I didn’t own a smartphone when I’m pretty into social media. What I do own is a pretty old Nokia that is currently being held together by sellotape and now likes to randomly switch itself off. I would love a smartphone, just as I would like to afford to be able to go to visit friends in different parts of the world or go to conferences. Or live in the flat that I own instead of renting it out while I live in my Mum’s converted attic.

I don’t have these things because I chose a job I love that can only fund me for 18 hours per week, and sometimes doesn’t have the money to pay me on time.

Sometimes in church I feel really left out because I don’t get to do what I’d love to do – minister and encourage parents and families, be involved with the community at the local primary school like my friend Lynn is, or host a smallgroup. It can often feel that church is run by married couples, for married couples and their offspring. I love kids, and I’ve been told from about the age of 3 that I’d make a great mother. It killed me to learn when I was 21 that I probably wouldn’t be able to have children. And one thing I do get jealous of with my married friends is that they have someone to share the burden with (and yes, I know that it isn’t always that way, I have no rose tinted glasses when it comes to marriage). I do not like socialising on my own, and I do miss doing things with a partner. Any single person will tell you how awkward wedding celebrations can get at times!

That all being said: I’m very glad I’m not with a partner who is dragging me down. Being single is better than being in a toxic relationship.

It’s easy to get disheartened sometimes.

But there have been such great silver linings. Being single, not a parent and working part-time has given me some fabulous gifts that I hope others can benefit from – and that means a lot to me. And I would never want to change that.

Making the choices I have in the last 4-5 years I only had myself to think of. It meant I got to go to South Africa and Australia, it also means on a daily basis I only have to take care of me. I’m try to imagine shopping and cooking for other people every single day and having to factor that into my limited diet without limiting theirs. There’s a reason I don’t often eat at other people’s homes, I hate putting that stress on them!

Working part-time has enabled me to stay healthy. Especially in winter when I find it really tough to keep going.

It’s also meant that I can do lots of things I wouldn’t be able to do if I worked full-time, like be part of Powerpoint, volunteering with GirlGuiding, seeing my friends and doing all the extra stuff I do with the charities I work for. It also means that I have an opportunity to support my friends who are trying to work/study and parent full-time!

I’ll give you some examples: 2 weeks ago I was able to help friends by babysitting their son who had chicken pox while one parent worked and the other parent took their other son to a sports activity. This week I was able to help another friend by babysitting their 17 month old to give her the chance to study.

I love being able to do that. I feel honoured that my friends trust me to take care of their most treasured gifts. And I like being able to give something (I hope) back to them for all the encouragement and love they’ve given to me through challenging times and the celebrating times.

The people who offer the well-meaning platitudes? They don’t get it.

They only see the dark clouds and not the silver lining gifts.

Community Blog Party: Tim’s take

Tim Hardy – writer of an occasional blog, (very) short stories and ‘poetry’; believer in God, people and sometimes the church; and pioneer of the rambling, trailing-off introduct… He most enjoys writing about himself.

What is Community?

I have no idea what community is.

None of the books on the subject convince. “A collection of individuals based around a shared interest, leader or purpose.” “That which happens within a commune.” “Something best serviced by those convicted of crimes against it.”

Okay, I made them all up but you know I’m right.

What I do know is that people are important and not just because Jesus said so – although his endorsement is a very valuable point to bear in mind. Any discussion of community that doesn’t begin by assuming the value of people is worthless. People are important and wherever two or three are gathered, something happens: something is formed. The word community fits both the verb and the noun.

So, if it’s that easy, why all the books, why this collection of guest posts, what’s all the fuss about?

Quite simply, like Soylent Green, community is people. And, like people, community is a complicated beast with all the positives, negatives and potential inherent in anything involving people. And, as with people, we find that fascinating.

My brain hurts. Here’s an obvious story:

Once upon a time there was a wise woman who needed to find the answer to a question, The Question, but the scope of the question was too broad and vast for her to begin even contemplating by herself. She gathered friends about her and asked them for help. Whilst they pondered the question, some of them went in search of the kitchen to make tea, some of them sought out music to sooth their troubled breasts, some formed small groups to discuss The Question, some went out to gather supplies (beer and pizza, pot-noodles and wine gums), some made moves to contact experts in the field, and others just sat there and thought long and hard.

But still, even amongst all this activity, the answer proved elusive.

A general appeal was made across all the available media: can anybody with any ideas about The Question please contact the wise woman (although she did not call herself that) at the address below. Offers of help came pouring in and accommodation was made for the visitors. Everybody had an opinion on The Question but few, if any, dared to venture a definite answer – those who did were quickly shouted down by somebody who thought differently.

The wise woman asked some of her friends to go out into the surrounding area, talk to everybody they came across and invite anybody who might have an opinion to join the discussion. This was a roaring success in terms of numbers but, despite everybody bringing something unique, in terms of coming up with an answer, it was a complete disaster. Different factions sprung up, each with their own ideas and methods, everybody talked at once (some quite vehemently) and some of those gathered had very precise and difficult to meet needs.

The wise woman sat down dejectedly. She surveyed the glorious, noisy mess spreading out around her and realised she had found The Answer.

Community Blog Party: Shelley’s Take

Shelley Hendrix is a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, author, and television talk show host. She launched Church 4 Chicks in 2008. But more important than any role she fills, she is most grateful to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she belongs to and matters to God. You can connect with Shelley on facebook & twitter

Shelley Hendrix

Community: this word brings to mind different scenes and various emotions. I’ve experienced both deeply positive and extremely negative extremes of this. For some, community evokes feelings of joy, warmth and belonging. For others, it prompts emotions of concern at best and anxiety at worst. I’ve lived on both sides of this fence at different times in my life. I’ve lived this reality in schools, neighborhoods, family circles, and even in churches.

I’ve learned over the years that we have a very relational God—He is the one who created the whole idea of community, of living life together rather than alone. He never said “it isn’t good for man to be single.” He said, “It is not good for man (i.e. human beings) to be alone.” (See Genesis 2:18) There’s a big difference between the two. So, it makes sense to me that with this being of such supreme importance, we would find it to be the area of greatest struggle. If you wanted to take down your enemy, you’d attack what’s most vital, right?

It’s my deep conviction that because God created us to be relational, and that this is a good thing for us, we need to be intentional to press past the negative experiences and memories of times we’ve been wounded by others, so that we might not miss out on the greater blessings of ties that bind us to amazing people who just might be instrumental in helping us reach our destinies—and us, theirs.

I have friends in Phoenix, AZ who pose this question: “What if there was a place that was so safe that the worst about us could be known and we would be loved more, rather than less, in the telling of it?” THAT is authentic, Christ-honoring community. It’s the driving passion of my life: to help create and cultivate these kinds of environments within my own home, my circles of friends, and in ministry. It’s the foundation for the call to start a ministry in my home town called “Church 4 Chicks.” Out of both experiences—the worst to the best—as it pertains to community, God deposited a desire in me to be a host to environments of grace. Places where He gets to be the hero of the stories and where we get to be who we really are: flawed, fragile, unimpressive, and broken.  Places where we take the risks together to learn what it means to live out of who God says we are. Places where we can make mistakes and not be defined by them. Places where we get to be honest that our greatest wounds come through relationships and where we get to experience that our greatest healing does, too.

Community blog party: Christine’s take

Jeff Gill and his wife Christine are the children and families pastors at i61 Church in Llandudno, North Wales. They are trying to learn about community from the people they volunteer with at their local community centre. They have three great kids. Christine is also a photographer and like Jeff is very interested in food and meeting the physical as well as spiritual and emotional needs of the people in her community. She draws inspiration from Maria Montessori, who believed that you could not teach children anything unless you took care of their family’s basic needs first, and from the book of James, which has some great ideas on how to meet the needs of the community, and of course Jesus who was always pretty decent with the poor and the hurting as well.

She tends to always be telling stories about when she was little…

I was 6 during the miners’ strike of 1984. I lived in a small mining village.

I guess the strike probably affected me differently than it did my friends, whose dads worked in the mines. My father had been unemployed my whole life anyway.

It was one of the happiest times of my childhood.

Weird, but i really do think back upon it fondly. I laugh at people who get rich and famous and then talk about how wonderful it was when they had nothing and “By ‘Eck, we lived on Mouldy bread and Cloudy Water and we had a sweater between the 6 of us and those were the Days! Ahh Yes!” That’s just stupid. Ooh yeah, having money is such a hardship, isn’t it?

And I know that If I was to go back to 1984 as an adult, I would see the hardship and suffering, families who used to be able to eat well now living on handouts etc, etc. For me, my family had never had money anyway, and we had a neighbour who stole some coal for us on a regular basis, and a forest full of trees to burn.

People’s gardens were full of potatoes and carrots instead of weeds and everyone helped each other out. It was one year that was different from all the others. There were marches through the village, everyone dressing up in silly outfits. My sisters were Martini girls. Black and white outfits, roller skates, and a bottle and glass glued to a tin tray. I was a clown. I was always a clown. I wanted to be Boy George, like my Cousin Donna was.

So everyone in the village would get up and march through the village from the tiniest to the very old and ancient people. There was no “Young people do this and oldies do this and teens do this” we all did it together.

And we marched up to the football field and there were games. Fancy Costumes were judged, races were run- middle aged men holding up their fancy long dresses to try to run faster…

People sold their veggies, and old vases and anything else they could find.

The town jazz band marched around the field with their big tin kazoos blowing (i used to call them gazoots) and we stayed there on that field all day long, It was the middle of summer but I remember dancing and laughing going on till well after dark. And everyone knew each other and the kids got to feel just as important as the grown ups because we were there for it all. And then in 1985, the strike ended and my family stayed inside our four walls, same as we always had done before the strike started, and they’ve been there since.

The kids went back to doing their thing and the adults went back to doing their thing and my little village has never known that community since.

And it is sad.

I like community. I do not like segregation. Little ones do this and bigger ones to this and biggest ones do this, maybe it’s just me, but I do not like it. I like family, not just flesh and blood family but everyone around you type family.

Can this kind of community be built without the hardships like those of the Miners’ Strike? Do we have the oomph to create such a thing?

We shall end with a song, which sounds jolly, but is sad. To especially go along with how I just made the 1984 Miners’ strike sound like fun. You be sure to sing along now.

Community Blog Party: Lisa’s take – Craving Authenticity

Lisa is a lover of music, coffee and all things French. She is also a Christian, corporate lawyer and blogger-on-a-break. She tweets occasionally via @mylifebyfaith.

Craving Authenticity

Husband and I are not long back from 2+ years in Canada. We semi-clicked back into life in our former home town of Edinburgh during our four month stop this summer, and with our next (and last for the foreseeable future!) move in just over a week, we’re eagerly anticipating the new friends that await us in London, and settling into a new pattern of life and community.

I was scouting around online one night recently and was struck by this:

Church should be so much more than a Sunday meeting. Church is a community of believers sharing lives.”
-Beacon Church

What a great vision for community — sharing lives.

The source of community is the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit living in eternal loving and harmonious community. As beings made in the image of God, it’s not at all surprising that we yearn for that sort of community. I crave close community, and yet (with the exception of my marriage) it often feels out of reach.

As Christians, we have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world — at home, across oceans, and even a few hundred miles south. I’m so full of hope for the church community that we will become a part of in London, and particularly the small group that we will join.

I crave authentic, complete community where we are open, vulnerable and transparently honest with one another about our lives; fears, folly, health, hopes, delight — you name it.

My vision of community is summed up in Romans 12:15 — “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”.

And so, I want to encourage all of us to seek and develop community like this, particularly in our small groups. Let’s not be satisfied with “fine, thanks”, either spoken or heard. Let’s not let one another shoulder problems alone, no matter how messy or seemingly trivial they are. Let’s not forget about one another during the rest of the week.

Let us really love one another as we want to be loved. Let us take time to ask and to really listen. Let us support one another in prayer through the week. Let us carefully cultivate these relationships through the week. Let us tell others by our words and actions that they matter. Let’s really get alongside one another in love.

And when we fail, let us extend grace to one another and keep on keeping on.

Church should be so much more than a Sunday meeting.

Community Blog Party: Nicola’s take – Parish Life

Nicola works part time at a theatre in Oxford and spends the rest of her time writing. She is part of St Michael and All Angels Church of England Church in Summertown, the place where it’s summer all year long ;) She blogs at http://nicolahulks.blogspot.com.

Parish Life

I realised that I was part of a real community on the day we interviewed for our new Vicar. We had put on a ‘trial by quiche’ (how very English!) and were packing up the remnants. On one side of the room my neighbour in her 80s was proffering out takeaway coffee cups full of cherry tomatoes for us all to take home and on the other was my lawyer neighbour amid a blur of tea towels and washing up liquid. The room was packed with laughter and excitement. There was a buzz about the future, our future.

It’s moments like this that make me love being part of my local parish church. There are also plenty of moments that make me think twice about it. In the Church of England the whole country is split into parishes with their own local churches. When your church members are selected by little more than geography it can all end up very much like an episode of the The Vicar of Dibley with alarming speed! This may be is why people often opt out of it and group by taste rather than geography. It’s absolutely true that my view on what makes a good Sunday service are usually vastly different from people my grandparents age. But it’s also true that none of my peers have travelled the world with the British Civil Service or given the local church forty years of their adult life. There is a lot to learn in a mixed age community.

I like (mostly!) that there is no getting away when you are part of a local community. They know when you live. Short of lying on the carpet on your belly and pretending you don’t hear the doorbell there’s not much you can do to get away! But that seems healthy somehow. Members of my community are on my doorstep, they are in my home. They know when my laundry day is and who delivers my groceries. It’s hard to present a front about yourself when you live in such close proximity.

I love that on our best days we exist to serve our community, those who come to church and not. We are there to celebrate the joy of births and marriages and the devastation of loss. Often the church doesn’t live up to these lofty ideals and may not seem to connect with its community at all. The church has a lot of work to do to make this a reality. But the moments amid the washing up with my neighbours give me hope that it can. And It makes me want to give my all to see that happen.