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.