Saturday, February 22, 2014

Inclusive Church???

As we travel through these last weeks at St Matthew's, I have, not surprisingly, been reflecting a great deal about the church I am leaving...about our health, how it feels to be part of the congregation, how we appear to the wider community. 
Our website says
" we strive to live by the message of Christ, in which there are no outcasts and all are welcome.

and visitors typically speak of us as welcoming or hospitable - so I have to admit that I found it uncomfortably challenging when a member of our congregation blogged thus 

On one level, of course, the answer to her question "Is church really for me" must be a resounding "YES"
If we cannot make church an experience for everyone - then we need to stop right where we are and have a long hard look at ourselves - and start doing things differently.

On another level - well, NO - church isn't for her - or for me - or for my godson, who's nearly 3, nor even for lovely M., in her 70s, and a lifelong servant of her parish church and the community beyond it.
If by "church" we mean what happens on Sunday mornings at 10.00 - then actually it's not for any of us.

We go there to worship GOD - and it's sometimes rather too easy to let the agenda slip into "going to church for reassurance/friendship/education" - all good things in themselves, which will in different measure be part of the church experience - but which aren't the core purpose of that time we spend within the walls every week.

There are some other things that I'd take issue with in  A's post.
For example, I did indeed find myself as the only mum with small children in a local church told that if I wanted any provision for them, it was up to me to provide it - and provide it I did (and from that all sorts of things grew over the years - but that's another story).
And there is, I'm afraid, truth in the saying that "like attracts like".
For whatever reason, outside the urban centres it seems very hard for churches to attract young singles. 
At that stage of my own life I was living in London, and attending church as a chorister - so I had a ready-made social circle based around singing. 
We spent lots of time together, with pub as an essential postlude to choir practice, Sunday Mass and Evensong - and friendships flourished in that context so that eventually we formed our own under 30s study group, thus giving us another opportunity to meet up in the week. That wasn't laid on by the church - I don't even remember whether any of the clergy attended, though we did have 2 young curates at the time...but for a while that group met our needs til we began to move on in our lives and out of London. 
I tend to think of that as in some ways my "golden age" of church membership but from what I remember of my view of the pews, there were very few young adults even then, beyond those whose partners were part of the choir.
At St M's now we do have clutch of thirty some-things in the congregation (something that just wasn't the case a few years ago) they are nearly all parents - so it's that much harder for them to join in any evening activities, or to commit to anything beyond the demands of work and family life - even though they may well aspire to that sort of "whole life" community that is often labelled new monasticism. So - though they are there, they aren't going to be much help for A., as she searches for authentic community - and that's a shame.
Which means that, though I long to produce a ready-made source of like-minded souls from her generation - it's just not going to happen. Mostly church IS messy...full of haphazard relationships, unlikely friendships that force you to reframe your own sense of self, or, more crucially, to leave that sense of self at the door as you focus on what you can offer to another in faith, hope and love. 

But of course she is right that we all have a mutual responsibility to one another - that if we're not doing enough to make any particular constituency feel welcome, then we are failing in hospitality, - one of our key Christian callings.

And of course, that applies to more than any particular age group.

We won't find a perfect church that meets the needs of all of us - and sometimes it's more important to say, in a kind of JFK way "Ask not what your church can do for you, but rather what you can do for your church" - but we do need to take seriously our calling to model God's inclusive welcome in all that we say and do and are...

The House of Bishops seem to see this rather differently from this very ordinary parish priest - and I do know that the responsibility of holding things together is apt to take its toll. I'll never forget how it felt when I found myself wearing +Michael's episcopal ring during a training event. I blogged about it here
and need to re-visit the experience whenever I'm feeling specially frustrated or impatient.
But it seems to me that the most recent "Pastoral letter" (which seems so very FAR from pastoral that it is in danger of redefining the word in an almost Orwellian way) has taken things in a new and rather alarming direction. Though the Pilling report opened the way for a period of dialogue, it's hard to see what conversation is possible now. There have been many responses in the past week, from those with a much more personal stake in the discussions. The legal situation has been analysed, the personal impact dissected and one wonderful blogging friend wrote a letter that I would love to have penned myself.

Since then, some bishops have manned the barricades for the sake of the poor - challenging the culture that divides society into deserving and undeserving in a way that would see us back at the Elizabethan Poor Law before we've turned round twice...

And I've remembered that this "being Church" thing is nothing like as straightforward as turning up on a Sunday morning.
It's not about St Matthew's, or the diocese of Gloucester or even about the whole C of E. It's not about what we do together in worship - though that's part of the story, of course.
Rather it's about our attempts to live as signs of God's kingdom...stumbling, imperfect, disappointing signs, but doing the best that we can. 

So - I'm turning again to some words I sang first at Greenbelt, words which are now a kind of personal creed.
This is where I stand.
This is the Church that I long for.
I love that just and unjust are equally welcome.
I've no idea what it would look like on a Sunday morning, whether A. would find kindred spirits, whether the noise of the children would distress the elderly who can't hear so well, whether we'd FEEL as if we were "getting it right".
I just know that this must be what "inclusive Church" is really all about - and one day, by God's grace, it will come to pass.

For Everyone Born, a Place at the Table
For everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead,
                and God will delight when we are creators
                of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
                yes, God will delight when we are creators
                of justice, justice and joy!

For woman and man, a place at the table,
revising the roles, deciding the share,
with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,
for woman and man, a system that's fair,
                and God will delight when we are creators
                of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
                yes, God will delight when we are creators
                of justice, justice and joy!

For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong,
                and God will delight when we are creators
                of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
                yes, God will delight when we are creators
                of justice, justice and joy!

For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live,
                and God will delight when we are creators
                of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
                yes, God will delight when we are creators
                of justice, justice and joy!

For gay and for straight, a place at the table,
a covenant shared, a welcoming space,
a rainbow of race and gender and colour,
for gay and for straight, the chalice of grace,
               and God will delight when we are creators
               of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
               yes, God will delight when we are creators
               of justice, justice and joy!
For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

Shirley Erena Murray 
Words © 1998 Hope Publishing Company

2nd Sunday before Lent Yr A

Don't worry about tomorrow!

If ever there were advice that is hard to follow at this time of transitions, this must be it!

Really, Jesus, you just don't get it, do you?

There's all the preparations for moving house – booking removal firms, telling all the official people that we're changing our address, working out what on earth we're going to do with all the books that can't fit into the new house and when we'll manage to get up there to paint the study....
There are all the preparations for the new job – learning about Cathedral ministry, learning more of the story of Coventry, reflecting on all the hopes of others and my own aspirations and inadequacies.
And most of all, there's that longing to leave here do everything I can to ensure that ministry carries on smoothly, that those who might need extra love and care don't feel I've just abandoned them, that wedding couples know who will be taking their service
And just getting on with the everyday stuff -with planning Lent services and Easter celebrations, checking on palm crosses and Lent course books...
I'm beginning to understand why you were the only one who ever managed to say “It is finished”
I don't think I'll manage my final departure that well, if I can't even organise my move from one ministry to another.
So – sorry, Jesus, but it seems to me that pretty much everything I do at the moment is shaped by worries about tomorrow.

And I'm one of the lucky ones.
If I'm honest, my worries are all about my “Wants” rather than my “needs”.
You would all cope perfectly well if I vanished this afternoon...the life and ministry of the church would continue uninterrupted, children would be baptised, the dead commended to God's care, the Sacraments celebrated....
I'm in no way essential – and all the other STUFF that is preoccupying me really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things at all.
So perhaps I can mange to learn “Don't worry about tomorrow”

But some things do need to be worried about – really they do.

This week our bishops, Michael and Martyn, were among 2 dozen who signed a letter that received a great deal of publicity in the national press.
If you didn't see it, there are copies on the table at the back of church.
It draws attention to those whose worry about tomorrow is all too real and pressing.
People, often working as hard as any of us, who don't know whether they will eat at all today....or who have to choose between eating and heating....
Ordinary people – not ne'er do wells or scroungers...people just like us, with the same hopes, fears, longings and dreams....who have been pushed to the bottom of the pile as our welfare system reaches breaking point.
That this should happen at all is a scandal in a western country in the 21st century – for we have enough for me to have TOO MUCH to fit into our new home – and we eat enough for me to need to sign up to Weight Watchers once again.
There's something very wrong in this situation, isn't there?
How can some of us have so much – and others so very little.

It's a political problem, yes – but it's also a spiritual problem for sure.
It seems to me that we are in danger of forgetting a key truth from our Old Testament lesson – that each and every baby born into this world, each and every human being is MADE IN GOD'S IMAGE.
So – each and every human being has both equal rights – to the basic necessities of life – and equal responsibilities – to ensure those necessities are available for all.
To seek the kingdom of God is to pursue a world founded on the principles of the great Commandments – to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbours – rich, poor, black, white, straight, gay, ALL our neighbours as ourselves.

There is enough in this world to meet the NEEDS of all
The wants may be rather different – and it's possible that we cannot have all that we want, all that we imagine we need, if we're to be serious in seeking God's kingdom.
But God's kingdom and his righteousness are not optional extras for us...
We can't just sit in comfort while our brothers and sisters, made like us in God's image, struggle with poverty, injustice, oppression.
We can't ignore the struggles of creation, groaning as it awaits redemption – while we exploit and abuse it. 
We may not need to worry but we do need to act for we are called to something different, something greater.

And living that calling will not be achieved by worrying about tomorrow – though the prospect of taking our calling seriously might well encourage worry in the short-term, we know that worry never gets us anywhere.

Instead, we are called to live lives founded on God's righteousness knowing that if that is really and truly our focus we can trust Him to carry us through so we too can play our part in making the Kingdom real in this place at this time.

Lent is coming.
May we use those days to restore our perspective, to recover our sense of what really matters so that with Easter may come resurrection hope for all the world God loves so much.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Homily for 8.00 Proper 2 3rd Sunday before Lent Yr A

We're all partisan sometimes. It seems to be part of the human condition.
We define ourselves over against someone else, from the playground politics that label someone as in or out because of their trainers or the football team they support, and on into the adult world.
When I came here, the first thing I was told about this community was “Cainscross is NOT Stroud”
We define ourselves: “US” and not “THEM” – politically, socially, even in matters of faith
WE are Anglicans – THEY are non-conformist
WE are liberal – THEY are conservative
and – implicitly – WE are right, THEY are wrong

We seem powerless to prevent this – even though we may know instinctively that it's not the way God would have us be. We are a tribal people and we love to squabble, believing every time that our way of being is right.

And clearly, that's been the experience of the church in Corinth as they split down the middle – into those who supported Paul and those who preferred Apollos. I'm sure both camps were sincerely convinced of their own position – and it's quite helpful for us to realise that the matters which divided them so clearly in those early days of the church have quite been completely forgotten now. As the media resounds with cries of joy or despair in response to the latest decisions at General Synod, the current proclamations from the House of Bishops, it might help to remember that. The struggles which dominate our landscape today will probably, by the grace of God, be as thoroughly lost and forgotten as those which split the Corinthian church.
We have NO idea how Paul's teachings differed from Apollos...and today, it just doesn't matter.

What DOES matter is the point that Paul makes loud and clear – which the Church needs to hear again and again at every stage of her life.

The church is not MY church – or your church –
It doesn't belong to any one faction – New Wine, Inclusive Church, Forward in Faith, Reform – it belongs, and has always and only belonged, to GOD.
None of us, however passionate we are in our beliefs, however committed to sharing them, has the last word or the monopoly on truth...
That truth is God's alone – and his vision is always larger, his love more inclusive.

One plants, another waters - in other words, we all have a part to play - but it is God who gives the growth.

Last week we thought a lot about growth – about the need for us to move on, during the green and growing season, from being infants in Christ to reaching the maturity that we need in order to share our faith with others. This doesn't mean that we have to set aside “simple faith” - but we do need to be honest in dealing with any complexities we may encounter. God gave us minds as well as hearts and souls...and we need to do all we can to ensure that our faith is not just a matter of childish loyalty or unthinking love...
Sometimes fear prevents us from engaging with the hard stuff – so we try to gloss over the questions and challenges that we meet – but to do that means that we're never really honest with ourselves – or with God.
Growing in Christ we can dare to take the challenges head on – to acknowledge that neither life nor faith is a simple matter....We need to explore the issues that divide our church – asking God to help us to open our minds and our hearts. That's what growth is all about....

And if we are rooted deeply in Christ, secure in our own relationship with him, then we can reach out to others – so that the Church too can flourish and grow....for if WE do not take responsibility for sharing our faith, we can't be surprised if the Church that we love shrinks, withers, dies...

So – growth is good – but it can be challenging in itself. Listen to Jesus...constantly pushing the boundaries so that what his hearers assumed were the foundations of faith were expanded, changed
You have heard it said....but I say
Faith is never static...each generation learns from the traditions it received, but interprets those traditions afresh as God speaks into the current age, the current situation. If you doubt me, think of the way the Church once defended slavery – then reflected, listened and changed to become central in the movement to abolish it.

God's underlying truths are eternal – but the way we are to live them out is shaped by our context as surely today as it was for those who listened aghast as Jesus kept moving the goalposts, repeatedly putting love above law, people before rules. Here, the demands are almost overwhelming. We're not just to avoid murder – I can confidently confirm that I've managed that one so far...but we are also to turn away from jealousy, hatred, - all those negative forces that inspire acts of violence or cruelty.
Equally, we're not just to love our nearest and dearest – but also those whom we would quite cheerfully send to the other side of the world on a one-way ticket.
We're to model our faltering human love on God's boundless, all-embracing love...
We're to stop thinking in terms of them and us – and simply open our arms.

It's REALLY hard – all of it....but growing pains are another one of those things we can expect to encounter in our lives and our work as we look towards Lent is to BE growing people, responsive to God's call to live the truth of his love in this generation as we listen to the challenges he offers, to grow in faith, and hope and love.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

So what? A rather bumpy sermon for Epiphany 5A

On Monday, a friend emailed me a picture of Kermit the frog...captioned
Ordinary Time: it's not easy being green”
Just a bit of internet nonsense – but maybe Kermit has a point!
Ordinary time is described by the American theologian Jerome Berryman, as the “green and growing season” and, right enough, after the high celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany, with their conscious focus on the Christ-child in our midst, the spot-light now falls on us, as we are challenged to do some growing in faith ourselves.
No, it's not easy.
Not easy at all.

You see, there aren't any formulas or short cuts, no quick fix solutions in discipleship.
But discipleship is what we're about.
The process of learning from and growing more like Jesus, of living those baptism promises that we recalled as we stood by the font last Sunday.

It sometimes seems that we're content to stand still in our faith – as if faith was simply something to grasp with both hands and not a daily adventure.
We relapse into saying “I was baptised” instead of remembering every single day “I AM baptised” - with all the challenges and excitement that this involves.

Does that make sense to you?

Let's re-wind briefly.

Think for a moment about your own early experiences of life in the Church...about how it all began for you.
Perhaps you came week by week as a child – and gradually realised that something of real significance was happening here.
Perhaps you wandered in as an adult – looking for a solution at a time of trouble, or coming to celebrate a blessing or a joy – and encountered Someone whose love overwhelmed you and compelled you to respond.
That's often the way faith journeys begin.
We meet God and our life is changed.
A seed of faith is planted.

But – what happens next?
Is our response a single event – an acknowledgement that God is God which is noted, and filed away for future reference?
Or does it lead to more questions, fresh discoveries.
God is God – so what?
That is, I'd say, the central question for each one of us.

It has implications beyond the way we choose to spend our Sunday mornings – though sometimes that's the way that anyone could tell that we are people of faith.
Of course it does matter that we are here at worship together...
It's important that we come week by week with the specific purpose of encountering God in word and Sacrament – and in one another.
But – there's all the difference in the world between “going to church” and “BEING the church”....and, in this green and growing season, the onus is on us to learn together how we may be the church in obedience to our commission in the Sermon on the Mount.

God is God. So what?

Both Old Testament reading and gospel make it abundantly clear that we are to
Be doers of the word and not hearers only." and that our faith practice should have one single end – NOT what WE might get out of it, but what it will prompt us to do.
Hence those strong words from God about the fasting that leads nowhere.
It's not that there's anything wrong with fasting...or any other religious practice...but we do have to be clear WHY are we doing it?
Is it all about creating the perfect religious experience for us? If so, it's unlikely to amount to anything much...
You serve your own interests in the fast day”...or, in other, smugger, words, “Look at me being holy”
That's not just thoroughly unattractive – it's completely pointless.
Worship is NOT ABOUT US!

If our faith began with the awareness of God's love – it will grow and flourish as we reach out to share that love with others.

Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing shall spring up quickly;

It's when we look beyond ourselves that we begin to learn how to be Kingdom people....when we set out to share our blessings with the world that we begin to shine.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revisits this same challenge...Tom Wright says
God's purpose for Israel was that through them he would bring his justice and mercy to bear upon the nations”.
It was a challenge that Israel ducked Isaiah's day, and then again when Jesus set it before instead Jesus lived out that agenda himself.
He became a light to reveal God to the nations – He, rejected by many, became the the one set on the hill, the beacon which could neither be missed nor ignored....Living, dying, rising he fulfills the law and the prophets....Light for the world. Salt of the earth – changing everything by its presence...

Which brings us back to the “so what's” of our own discipleship.

The call is clear and uncompromising – so it's time for us to risk a health check.

I know it's not easy being green and growing – but whether we like it or not, we too are supposed to be light and salt... people who make a difference...
Of course, light and salt have very different kinds of impact.
The whole point about light is that it's unmissable...and the darker the surroundings, the more obvious it becomes. Sometimes I think we would prefer to blend into the background – even if that involves a few compromises with the way we live our lives.
But – that's not how light behaves.
It SHINES – changing the darkness by its presence...

Salt, on the other hand, works another way entirely...add it to a recipe and it will change the taste, bringing out the flavours that might otherwise be missed. Its presence won't necessarily be obvious but it's absence is quite another matter.
But – ARE we distinctively “salty”?
salt of the earth” is not a label reserved for a favoured few....It's a role for all of us – people blessed by God and handing on that blessing in ways that flavour our homes, our families, our communities with the distinctive taste of the Kingdom.

If there's nothing distinctive about us – if the salt has lost its flavour – then it's time for drastic action. If salt loses it's saltiness is it still salt at all?
If a light is not allowed to shine is it still a light?
If a Christian stops living a visibly different life, is she still a Christian?
If a church is just a Sunday gathering – is it a Church at all?

Big questions...too important to gloss over.

Our distinctive Kingdom flavour comes from being close to Jesus...from spending time with Him in prayer, in study and in action too.
We can't and won't change the world ourselves...but God's Spirit at work in us can enable us to be agents of change for the Kingdom.
We are to be both salt and light...not for our own benefit but to give glory to God and for the transformation of our community.
We, who have been blessed, are commissioned to pass on that blessing...that's what it means to be Kingdom people....the answer to the “so what” question that lies at the heart of discipleship.

It's not easy – not in any way! But though the demands may be great – the rewards are immeasurable.

Sunday, February 02, 2014


As I said in my homily for All Saints, Uplands, I really love this feast.

I love that we get one more visit to the crib, one more chance to cradle the baby Jesus in our own arms before he leaves us behind and begins his journey to the cross.
I love the way the liturgy takes us from the crib to the cross by way of our own baptism
And, as someone who loves, loves, LOVES candles - I love the way the service overflows with images of light and darkness.
This morning, the resourceful Herring of Christ produced a truly splendid all age talk based on making a lantern out of an orange, some olive oil & a blow torch...and the resulting lantern burned cheerfully on the altar for the rest of the service.
Of course, there was a bit of effort, some fiddly removal of the pulp of the fruit to be done before it really lit up - and I couldn't resist the reminder that there's often a LOT of effort and clearing away of our own stuff before we can begin to shine...but after a while, shine it did - and so do we.

After Communion, as we've done every year, we moved with our lighted candles to stand by the crib. 
The light there has burned non-stop since Christmas Eve - and I've often come in to church to find a visitor lingering there.Last week I met a mum with a toddler, sheltering from the downpour, the child shrieking excitedly
"It's NOT over Mum...It's NOT! it's NOT"
but today Evie & her mum finally flicked the switch - and that was that.

Christmas finished for another year.

It felt specially odd, as I reflected that whoever unpacks and arranges the crib next Advent - it won't be me...but as we processed to the font, reciting the Nunc Dimittis as I do at the end of each and every funeral, I realised that I wasn't leaving Christmas behind me but taking it with me - in every single one of the lovely people there. 

They stood around me, each one carrying their candle but bearing so much greater light than just those little flames. For a few moments as I looked at them, I seemed to be experiencing an answer to the prayer that I use before worship so often
"Loving God, as we gather in worship today help us to recognise you in your word, in one another and in the breaking of bread"
That little group of children and adults shone so brightly with the love of God that I viewed them through a rainbow of tears.

Moving on isn't going to be easy - but given such light along the way, I'm sure we will all arrive safely.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Candlemass homily for 8.00 at All Saints, Uplands.

I love Candlemass.
I love the echoes of the lost medieval church, the remembrance of past generations gathering with candles to be blessed – to light their homes and their worship through the year ahead.

I love the way this feast is a hinge point, between the crib and the cross.
As worship ends today, the light that has shone in the crib since Christmas Eve will finally be extinguished and our focus will move to the font – the place where each of us was, at baptism, marked by the cross, and commissioned to lead lives cross-shaped lives, - modelled on the pattern of Christ.

After today, we will not carry candles into our churches til the Easter Vigil, when the deacon will proclaim “The light of Christ” as the Paschal candle is brought in to transform the darkness of Holy Saturday – and we reaffirm those baptism vows once again.

Because, we are called to be people of light...

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” says the proverb

Whenever we choose hope, whenever we proclaim salvation, however vague and uncertain it seems, we each of us light a candle.
We light a candle for others – quite literally, as a sign of prayers.
The Lady Chapel at St Matthew's is often bright with candle flames, each a visible reminder that someone has visited and asked God to shine his light into dark or troubling situations.
We light candles for others, too, whenever we live as children of light...opting for what is good and true...showing by the way we live that we take seriously our commission to shine as a light in the world.

When our school Eucharist ended on Friday, I gave each class a candle to take away with them. For a few moments 7 flames burned brightly, drawing the eyes of all of us...then we counted down and blew them out – and I told the children, as I so often do, that the flame goes from the candle into their hearts.

And surely that's the message of today.
Through the high celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany we have rejoiced in glimpses of God's glory...revealed to shepherds and Magi, to Simeon and Anna, to the crowds on the banks of the Jordan and the wedding guests at Cana of Galilee.

Now we have to make sure that the world knows that the light still shines.

Sometimes it may feel as if the hope of Israel – and our own hopes too – have been lost, extinguished by the harshness of the world...
but the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

Think again of Simeon holding that tiny child...defenceless, RIDICULOUS of God, to place his rescue plan for the world in such a fragile vessel.
Remember, though it's true that a sudden draft can blow out a candle flame and leave us in darkness – all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of even a single candle.

Each of us bears the light of Christ in our hearts and minds..Each of us can stand as a sign of hope in a world that needs hope so badly.

I wonder whether our ancestors in faith remembered, when they lit their candles at home, the blessing they had received...I wonder if for them, each candle flame was a sign of God's presence...of Emmanuel, God with us in the joy of the Birth day but with us too in the darkest hours of the cross, and the pain of the world.

I wonder more if they recognised Emmanuel in their friends and neighbours...

and above all, I wonder if OUR friends and neighbours recognise Emmanuel in us.

Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.