We are an Inclusive Church

The three churches in the Parish – St George’s, St John’s and St Mark’s – are now, officially inclusive. We belong to Inclusive Church.

For those who are unfamiliar with this – as I certainly was a couple of years ago – it means that we as churches have signed up to the following statement of faith:
“We believe in Inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

It means we appear on a website https://inclusive-church.org directing people to churches where they may feel welcome whoever they are.

But isn’t that all of us? Aren’t we all welcoming and inclusive? We hope so, but the more I have thought about true inclusion, the more I have seen it as something we often fail at. I am a prime example. I’m great at coming up with ideas of how we can make ‘those people over there’ feel welcome. Great, I want to include them, it’s just that by my attitude I am dividing ‘them’ from ‘us’, forgetting that we are all the body of Christ. It’s not a case of ‘us’ being a body and ‘them’ being another body. We are the body. You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

Inclusive church is about finding out who might want to come to church but feels unable to. It may be something physical such as access or not being able to follow the service easily. It may be because someone is struggling financially and feels embarrassed about not being able to contribute. It may be because someone is bisexual and has picked up the idea that they are wrong in God’s and society’s sight. I can remember how as a new and totally overwhelmed mother I felt unable to be part of a local church – it was just too much.

There can be a host of reasons why we may feel unwelcome in a church and often Christians are as insensitive, prejudiced and downright judgemental as anyone else, so excluding people from a place where they should feel welcome and safe.

However, we can try, we can learn – and I am planning to run some Inclusive Church events in the next year to help us with this – we can listen to others, we can pray and we can listen to God. Then we may realise that we are one body. Then we may grow in faith and love.

Stella Wiseman

 

 

Realms of Glory

I’m not sure how best to describe it. Words like “plague” or “ infestation” don’t seem quite appropriate, and anyway, are probably sacrilegious. “Visitation” is probably safest if I want to avoid divine retribution.angel

Basically, St Mark’s is full of angels.

It all began a couple of months ago. We had our mini arts and music festival (“Arts at St Marks”) in October. After this was cleared away, the church looked a bit bare. Lesley S then came up with the idea of filling the place with angels during Advent. Shortly after that, Alison R hit upon “Realms of Glory” as a title for the theme. I announced it for a few weeks during November and then it happened. The angels started to fly in…

The first ones to arrive were a trio from Margaret. I’d previously announced that I’d like some to be flying above us, suspended from the cross ties below the ceiling. These seemed perfect for the job, so on the Monday morning, with the ladder firmly secured in place, I draped my old climbing rope over the tie and hauled the first angel up. This produced a certain silence from Lesley and Margaret. It really didn’t look like an angel. It looked quite scary. The juxtaposition of the ladder, rope and body also looked like we’d just lynched our first victim.

Just then, one of the mothers from Surrey slings came in and said, quite accurately, that it looked like one of Harry Potter’s dementors. A certain amount of hysterical laughter followed.

As we didn’t want people to go away with nightmares, we found a more benign location, on the wall behind the keyboard, where they look suitably angelic and not at all threatening.

However, this was just the start. We had a whole load more angels arrive from Hale Beavers and then the floodgates opened. They’re everywhere. Each time I go up to the church more have arrived. They’re on windowsills, dangling from the projector screen and almost everywhere else. We’ve even got a life-size (?) one standing by the entrance to welcome visitors to the church.

The overall effect is quite remarkable. Combined with the wall hangings, the Amnesty “Candles of Hope” paintings around the chancel and the traditional Christmas decorations, the place looks vibrant and an exciting place, where things are happening. Our thanks and congratulations to everyone who has contributed. It has turned out to be an exceptional tribute to people’s creativity, sense of belonging and pride in the church.

There is much nonsense talked about the spirit of Christmas. However, in some small way I think we can see an example of it here.

Bob Shatwell

 

A Christmas Treasury

Jonathan Jones is returning to St Mark’s, Alma Lane, Upper Hale to help raise money for Emily the Organ. He will be presenting a Christmas Treasury on Saturday December 9th at 7:00pm. Please come along for an evening with a Christmas feel, relaxed candle lit atmosphere. There will be a donations bar, raffle and some lovely music from Emily. There will be retiring collection in aid of the saving Emily the organ. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

Christmas Treasury poster

 

 

Carol Singing for Christian Aid

Come Carol Singing outside Farnham URC on 9 Dec from 14:00 for Christian Aid. Singers and collectors needed; can you let me know if you can manage some time sandcdakers@ntlworld.com. Also I`m afraid that cannot really continue as the co-ordinator of the annual door to door collection, as it requires someone either living in Hale or with a motor. I`ll be very happy to brief the next volunteer; it`s all straightforward, though a silver tongue is an advantage !! Thanks.