It was a theme that I took up in my rather grandly entitled ‘Presidential Address’ at Diocesan Synod last Saturday: how this Corona-coaster of a year had provided many opportunities for churches, communities and individuals to come together out of a sense of common experience, shared vision and mutual need.
‘Them and us’, I explained, can sometimes be a helpful narrative, providing a proper sense of loyalty and commitment, a sense of belonging. It’s important that we’re fully committed to our families, our neighbourhoods, our church congregations if we’re truly to live out our social responsibilities and to exercise our Christian discipleship. But the problem comes, I said, when we forget that those helpful little ‘Them and Us’s are part of a bigger picture of belonging:
‘that my little church is part of the ‘One holy catholic and apostolic Church’ stretched across the world and across the centuries; that my neighbourhood is inextricably connected with other neighbourhoods, not least through the complexities of the world’s ecology, of global communications, of international trade, and, of course, of infectious diseases; that Republicans and Democrats are all loyal Americans; that Christians and those of all faiths and none are created by the same God and made in his image’.
And perhaps it was the Collect for last week which brought all this to mind, in its focus on God’s great plan of reconciliation for the cosmos, and on a time when ‘Them and Us’ will be no more:
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The full transcript of the Presidential Address.