Queen's counsel XV

November 2002

Starting the second year at Queen's College has meant taking on new roles, getting used to a new first year group and re-forming the community of students and staff.  I wonder how often you think about all the different communities or networks that you belong to and the effort needed to maintain contact and respond to their separate needs.  With all of them, there is opportunity to explore ways in which to grow and be more effective in carrying the "word of the Gospel to every creature" and praying that "hidden things may be revealed to us and new ways found to touch the hearts of all" (words from a prayer for the Iona Community).  Each of us will have their own special mix of people and situations to relate to.

When we encounter the man on the Jericho road (Luke 10:30-37) who was struck down by robbers, we may come as a member of the church community (the Priest), a member of the local community (the Levite) or simply as a stranger (the Samaritan).   Jesus says: "truly I tell you, just as you did it for the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matt.25:40 - NRSV)  And who belongs to the family of Jesus - why, everyone of course.  That's not easy, not at all, but we can pray for strength and guidance on the road and claim God's blessing and grace on all that confronts us.

This sense of belonging reminds me of some things I experienced on holiday this summer on Tiree, a small Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides, sunnier, I am told, even than Codsall.  We stayed in a converted church, now run as a guest house and serving the island through supporting tourism and providing a local eating place - there's a modern-day parable in there somewhere.  The next thing is that people there often have several hats, for example one man runs a B+B, hires out bicycles, takes people whale-watching, delivers parcels and provides support for the ferry each day at the jetty - this high level of interaction is typical and enhances the sense of community on the islands.  Another quality moment came when sitting at the old harbour and having a local crofter come by and share insights with us, especially about the friendship and community spirit by which the islanders survive - life is raw enough there without having to live it on your own.  Maybe it can be in Codsall too.

The best antidote to aloneness is to seek communion with God and to do it together.  Our brief exploration of Taizé worship in September showed us one way - as Brother Roger, the prior and founder of the Taizé Community, said in this year's letter, "It is possible to encounter God truly in prayer, whether it is expressed with words or in silence" and "Nothing brings us as close to God as prayer with others, when it is supported by the beauty of song".

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