When I set up the computer at Kaeo on Sundays, the congregation are sitting waiting and it's difficult when there are things I'm not planning for them to see. It happened recently for the sound file for Simple Gifts, the Shaker Song. It was a video by Jewel, which ran during the service with a blank screen. Setting it up meant showing the picture on the video file – the singer wearing a rather low cut garment. As I tried to be speedy in case the sight was not pleasing to the gathered community of faith, Michael piped up: “All things bright and beautiful”.
That's what I reckon I've been hearing from certain big voices in the news. Or in the less blunt form: "We're OK because they are not OK."
It's being expressed in group terms, us versus them. This collection of "I" individuals over against that lot out there, other than us, beyond the pale. They are different kinds of people. They belong somewhere else, not in our place. They behave badly, against the principles of our who we are. They are a threat to our security and our identity.
Prayer – a topic that pops up every now and again in our talk together at church (surprise, surprise!). Like many faith topics I think we assume there's an official understanding of “prayer” and an officially correct way of doing it. That is, a set definition and a fixed pattern for prayer.
If I'd stayed with that assumption, then I don't think we'd have ever met up. I probably wouldn't have been part of church let alone a minister, because I'd have assumed I failed in the prayer department.
We've been talking a lot about making others welcome. It's at the heart of our mission as a parish and our vision for our new building.
What about this question: do we feel welcome?
I know what it is like to be in the midst of a group and feel a bit of an outsider. I get involved in groups that are not really my expertise but I'm keen to extend myself and contribute as much as I can. Often I have the question: do I belong here? Is anybody really interested that I'm here, or could they carry on fine without me? Do they care?