“We are all one, just as Christ is one”
The Vicar’s Letter
Many of you will know that when my family and I moved here back in January, we had Chickens. These feathered ladies were introduced to a variety of experiences following our move into urban living. That ended with a sly urban fox deciding to provide his family with a feast that Roald Dahl’s, Fantastic Mr Fox would have been proud of. I can hear Mrs Fox declaring to her cub those famous words, ‘A feast it shall be! Oh, what a fantastic fox your father is! Hurry up child, and start plucking those chickens!’
The thing about chickens is that they have to establish, what is often referred to as, a ‘pecking order’. Until they learn to get along, things can become somewhat violent – but nothing a carefully aimed broom handle doesn’t quickly sort out! This repeats itself every time a new member is introduced. I would suggest that this particular model of community is not something we should aim for at All Saints’!
A healthier one might be what comes next. Once things have settled down, the whole community works together, as though they were one homogenised unit. There is occasional bickering between the hens, but over time that becomes rarer and rarer.
Of course, nature holds many other examples of how communities can flourish. Bees’ work together in a complex mix of communication and roles. No one bee works to their own agenda, they are all a part of a social system that ensures the entire hive thrives.
For lions, wolves, army ants, the same is true. The pride, pack or colony have to work together if they are to survive the challenges of the world. Interestingly, resent scientific research into woodland trees has also discovered that they communicate through their root and fungal systems, and this works across species. They let other trees, even those different to them, know about nutrient sources, moisture, weather conditions, illness and invasive parasites or plants. If a tree is lacking nutrients or is sick, other trees pass on essential nutrients to them. It even looks as though some trees will sacrifice themselves to save others from poor soil, weather or disease.
It is worth us thinking about these complex relationships and communities, and how they live together and thrive.
As the Parish Church of Orpington, we have long since claimed that we are ‘All Saints for All People’. This is a wonderfully positive aspiration. But what does it mean to be a church for ALL, for everyone? What does it mean for us to be modelling ourselves on the most diverse communities in nature, where every single individual, including newcomers and those different to us, are an integral part?
As Christians, our Church community is based in the love we see in God. Such love requires service and self-sacrifice if it is to be true. In practice, this will mean occasionally letting go of our own preference or lowering our expectations in order to meet the needs of others. St Paul tells us that ‘Love does not insist on its own way’. In other words, we need to be willing to make small sacrifices for the good of the entire community. If our community is to thrive, we must never stop trying to master what it means to be a body that is willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others, where each of us is working for the good of all.
May we all be united in the one fellowship through the blessing of Christ and His Church together with Mary, the Apostles and all the Saints in glory.
Your friend in Jesus,