Liverpool vs Arsenal

Liverpool or Arsenal? Those were the only two choices that really mattered as I was growing up, The team you supported was the cause of much ridicule, discussion and judgement and sometimes even violence. As I grew away from my early love of football and didn’t really follow any team my neutrality was met with incredulous incomprehension from my friends. You must have a team you support was the message that I grew up with and if you didn’t ……….

Have things really changed? A few years ago when I started venturing into the world of cycling sportives a fellow mountain biker was incredulous that I had bought a road bike telling me I had ‘gone to the other side’ and that road bikers are ‘less friendly than mountain bikers’. But why couldn’t I be both? I enjoy both.

I’m sure I’m not the only person greatly troubled by the reports in the news that President Trump publicly declared that people opposed to his policies are anti-America and should leave.  Don’t we expect better from our world leaders?

I worry about the divided nature of the current state of our society. People are defined and more increasingly demonised by whether they are a Brexiteer or Remainer; more recently: is it Johnson or Hunt? I’m not comfortable where it is acceptable to be defined by our differences rather than by that which unites, I’m uncomfortable when sensitive and nuanced discussions can be interrupted by questions such as, ‘Do you agree: yes or no’?  or ‘Are you in or out?’. This breeds, mistrust, suspicion, alienation and huge resentment from both sides.

I do, however, have a solid and real hope that church communities can model something different and be places where our love of Jesus unites and defines us rather than our political or moral agenda. Brexiteers and Remainers should be able to talk cordially and act with civility to each other. Greens and Tories should be able to break bread together and stand to worship together. Mountain bikers and road riders should be able to lock their bikes up together. The phrase ‘middle ground’ perhaps sounds weak but I suggest that this could be a place of great strength where the church models a new way of behaviour and reaction.

I suggest that this is what Paul is envisioning when he writes to the Galatians.  ‘We no longer see each other in our former state—Jew or non-Jew, rich or poor, male or female—because we’re all one through our union with Jesus Christ with no distinction between us’.  (Galatians 3:28, The Passion Translation)

We see this reflected in the core Baptist Together value of inclusiveness.  ‘Following Jesus in transcending barriers of gender, language, race, class, age and culture. Identifying with those who are rejected, deprived and powerless’

I can sit and eat and worship and talk and laugh with someone who might hold entirely different views than myself because we are one through our union with Jesus Christ. I may not agree with you, you may not agree with me, but that which unites us is more important and stronger than our areas of disagreement.  

Our new Autumn Sunday morning series -20/20 vision – will be exploring our values as a church community, We will look at what we care about, what will influence our behaviour and attitude; and discover broad guidelines to what we do proactively and reactively,

My prayer and plea is simply this.

‘Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes’. (Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation)

See you on Sunday

Be Kind

Last week the Church of England launched its first set of guidelines for social media, designed to make online platforms happier places. Justin Welby unveiled these guidelines at Facebook’s UK HQ recognising the joys and downsides of social media along with the importance of tackling online abuse, misleading content and creating a more positive atmosphere online.

I have a love hate relationship with social media.  I post very little online myself these days having grown weary of  endless pictures of people enjoying ‘a crafty drink’ or a ‘cheeky meal’ out. I have also got very concerned about proud parents who post photos of every act and action of their darling cherubs. These poor children are having their whole life published on line.

Yet I have been guilty of all the above and find myself posting results of my latest cycle or run. I was so proud of my daughters flying out to trek in Nepal, I couldn’t stop myself from posting a picture of the intrepid explorers setting out on their expedition. Why do I do this? Because I’m sure people will be interested- at least that’s what I kid myself whilst in reality, I’m looking for affirmation and praise.

I have also been utterly turned off and disgusted by extreme negative views people have posted and particularly saddened when I’ve read insult and abuse online.

I have looked up and reconnected with old friends but also wasted hours of my life following the vortex of news feed updates of people I barely know.

The Church of England’s guidelines are built on universal principles which I’m sure we would all agree with:

·         Be safe. 

·         Be respectful. 

·         Be kind. 

·         Be honest. 

·         Take responsibility. 

·         Be a good ambassador.

·         Disagree well. 

·         Credit others. 

·         Follow the rules. 

I was chatting with a friend this week who told me he rarely even sends emails anymore as he has experienced so much miscommunication, and misinterpreted tones and missed nuances causing problems. Now he prefers to pick up the phone and talk. What a novel idea – talking to each other.!

It’s interesting that we have reflected this somewhat at RBC with our desire to create community by doing simple things like eating together more often.  Last night we had a leaders BBQ and prayer meeting, it was one of the best prayer times we’ve had!

Over the summer we are going to be having church picnics and our autumn outreach strategy is to use our homes more – invite people for a meal or just a coffee.

I think our culture is moving away from the disconnection of social media and impersonal online relationships, and people are seeking wholesome, genuine, uplifting and fulfilling relationships.

What a great time to be a church that strives for community and good relationship.

As Jesus himself said, ‘Love one another, by this everyone will know you are my disciples’.

My suggestion?

Log off

Put your phone away

Turn your screen off

And put this into practice.

See you on Sunday