On Sunday I was chatting with a young couple who are hoping to be married in Stratton Audley church. Stratton Audley is a lovely setting for a wedding, particularly when it is decked out with beautiful flowers. But that was not their only reason for choosing it – they hope to move down to this area. They have been exploring lots of the villages, and commented on the lovely sense of community they had picked up.
And it’s true, isn’t it! Our villages at their best are great places. We are entering the season of Fayres, Fetes and Open Gardens, and in these we see villages pulling together to make things happen. And in my job I also get to hear about some of the ‘neighbourliness’ that goes on – it is so different from what you tend to experience in a town or city, where you may or may not even know your neighbours.
However, there is the other side to village life. The long held and deep divisions, the causes of which can be lost in the depths of times. The cliques. The individuals who get left out. I’d like to say it was different in the churches, but sadly it crops up in some of those too.
At the moment in our church life we are focussing on how we can support one another. Easily said, but the thing about churches, like villages, is that we get thrown together with a group of people that we may or may not warm to. People that are like us and people that are very different from us. And somehow we need to learn to get along. In fact, Jesus wants us to do even more than that. He wants us to learn to love one another.
There is lots of good advice on the internet. One site (http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Along-With-People) suggested we should try to:
Wherever you take your inspiration from, let’s between us keep working at making our villages and churches welcoming, supportive and encouraging places!
And a final thought, if for no other reason than it amused me:
If dogs could talk, perhaps we would find it as hard to get along with them as we do with people.
Alice Goodall (Rector)