Looking at the two words bracketing the linking 'in' of the heading of this article, you can rightly assume that I am musing about (principally), two things: Companionship and Community.
The word 'companion' derives from the Old French word: 'compaignon' - meaning 'One who breaks bread with another', and has its origin in the Latin words com, 'together with' and panis, 'bread'. We might think that breaking-bread together is something which normally happens when people who are already established as friends or at least acquaintances come together to share food. Yet in many cultures and beliefs it is the act of sharing food (of which bread is often a staple), which initiates relationship. The word communion comes from the Latin communion 'sharing in common' and relates as much to the sharing of thoughts, feelings and beliefs as it does to holding material things 'in common'.
In the service of Holy Communion (sometimes called 'the Lord's Supper' or 'Eucharist') enacted and celebrated by Christians throughout the world, we share in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine as we remember God's great love for us and God's giving of Godself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the Eucharist we say: 'though we are many, we are one-body, because we all share in one bread'
It is Jesus Christ 'the bread-of-life' who brings us together, despite differences of background culture, social status, gender or lifestyle. Jesus often brings together people who would in other circumstances be so aware and focussed upon their differences that they would hastily speed-off in opposite directions.
The church is not meant to be a group of homogenous individuals all talking the same way or liking the same things. True, those individuals will discover areas of 'communion' - of shared thinking and feeling, as they break-bread together. Yet a healthy church will demonstrate the diversity of God's creation and God's love for all people in all their variety, and then that church will celebrate that diversity as we recognise God's love for each of us and as we in turn share love for Jesus.
Idealistic? Delusional? I'll let you judge. Yet I am never so aware of God's love for people, all people, than when I take services of Holy Communion. I am so aware of God's love for people at these moments that it even blasts my own prejudices and preconceptions to smithereens and I feel, as Michael Ramsey once said: 'With God, with the people on my heart, and with the people with God on my heart'
Once, all 'holidays' were Holy Days (which is how we get the word), and represented the only days when ordinary folk could get some respite from what for most, were days of drudgery and hardship.
Setting some time aside for God, became not just a helpful thing for the soul, but a vital change and rest for the body. When I was at school, there was much talk of the need to be educated for leisure (sadly, I wasn't!) - the notion being that advances in technology and computing would liberate humanity from being 'slaves' to work and instead 'work' would become vocational, creative and fulfilling. This has only happened for a very few of the world's population, and even those pursuing careers of their choice, are now slaves to their smartphone, and the constant pressure to respond to email or text.
Holidays are to be recommended! But can I suggest that we make them 'Holy Days' too? Can I encourage you to spend time with, or searching for God, and to cast your burdens and your stress at your loving creator's feet?
Jesus said: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11. Verse 28).
Happy Holy Days!, May God bless you and those you love,
Whatever our actual age might be, we are all God's children - known, and loved by God.
Yet the records of Jesus' ministry in the first century show us how much value Jesus placed upon infants, children and young adults. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each* record how some of those following Jesus tried to prevent people bringing their children to see and hear him or to be healed by him. In those days children, along with women and some other sections of society were treated as not worthy of learning or participating in debates about life, politics, or religion. Jesus constantly raised the status of children and the underprivileged giving them a 'voice' and central role in their society.
It is in accordance with Jesus' own teaching and ministry that as a church family we endeavour to recognise that children are 'the church of today' and 'the community of today' just as they may become the church and community of tomorrow.
Our local communities at Nettlestone, Seaview and St Helens are truly blessed to have among them two wonderful Primary schools which enliven and enrich our local villages. Neither Nettlestone nor St Helens Schools are church schools, but they seek to be embedded in the life of the local community, including the church and I am delighted that St Peter's and St Helen's have many opportunities to engage with and support these schools and their staff and pupils.
As a parent, I know just how valuable my son's friendships at St Helens are to him — and to us as a family; (how much his friends and their parents have helped us over the past year, to settle here on the island).
As Priest-in-Charge of St Helens with Seaview I am energised and enthused by the conversations I have with pupils and staff at both schools. Our Sunday worship is enriched by members from both schools singing in the choir or being part of 'Children's Church'. It is all part of preserving and developing our local community. Our local schools are vital to village life and deserve our support especially in times of austerity.
I shall be inviting each of the schools to write for a 'Schools News' page in future editions of this magazine so 'Watch this Space!'
In effect, this is the question all of us entitled and registered to vote were asked last month.
Who do we want to have the power to make decisions and order our lives for us? The general election provided us with a variety of ways to answer this conundrum, and each of us will now be reflecting on the result differently, depending upon our political allegiance or aspiration.
Supposing that instead of the usual plethora of pledges and promises, a political party had set out their manifesto in the form of a poem, this poem, for example, by R.S.Thomas:
It's a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man is King and the consumptive is
Healed: mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back: and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It's a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
On the Sunday after the election, as people left the church service, conversations revealed a variety of widely different reactions to the result. Yet all these people were advocates of a particular kind of Kingdom - on the lines of the above poem, and a particular kind of ruler to rule their lives.
Reconciliation - or the bringing back into harmonious and peaceful relationship, those who have been at-odds, estranged or opposed to one another - is one of the gifts given to humanity through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a tragedy of the Christian Church that in its chequered history it has not always modelled reconciliation and peace, and all too often it's institutions and leaders have abused power and status and oppressed those who should have been treated with gentleness and love.
The transformation of our church and our world into a place where difference is celebrated, and where people with differing backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, opinions, lifestyles and social or economic power, can join together joyfully to share in God's love for every uniquely created human being, is perhaps, still a long way away. Yet a celebration of the wonderful diversity of human life is something that every parish church should be modelling in the 21st Century.
Jesus prayed to God for his followers that; '...so that they may be one, just as you and I are one' and again, '...in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me' ( John 17. 22-23 Good News Bible)
So if we find ourselves on a bus, in a pub, in a church, at school, at home, ...or at any other gathering where there is someone to whom we need to be reconciled, let us hope and pray to have the courage to rejoice that we are each different, yet equally loved by God.