I have been enjoying the snow during the past few days. There has then the joyful whoops of excited children pulling back the curtains and seeing the world turn white. Explorations of snow and ice – the sound as is crunches under feet, how it feels in our fingers and even how it tastes. It has been a sensory delight.
One highlight was how the snow brought the community together as we came out of our homes and threw snowballs, built snowmen and women, and towed sledges filled with children (and a few adults that refuse to grow up) along the road. Out street was filled with excited shrieks and laughter as neighbours, young and old, played together for a good few hours.
There was however, another side to the picture. We went for a couple of days without heating as the boiler struggled with the big freeze. Some of the older folk we know were anxious about leaving their homes in case they got into difficulties. Various groups and activities were cancelled, therefore increasing feelings of isolation. Even these challenges were met with the beauty of community. One of our local shop keepers called around to elderly customers to check they had enough supplies and took it upon himself to deliver bread and milk to those who could not get out.
As I reflected upon the snow and different people’s responses I considered the church.
The church faces an array of views, voices, opinions and challenges. It is perhaps easiest to manage if everyone is of one view. If everyone thinks and acts the same then we can develop programmes and services to meet the needs of a particular demographic and attract more like minded people. The church needs to be diverse. We need the people who see a new landscape and want to rush out and enjoy it, we need the people who are cautious about stepping out but with a little prompting come and join in and find that they enjoy the altered space. We need those who wait inside in the warm ready to welcome and warm those who have been out in the snow with fresh socks and mugs of hot chocolate, we need those who are afraid to come out and as well as those who will go to them.
To be the church is not to be a group of monochrome robots but to work at all of these relationships to be a rich and diverse community sharing life together because God’s image is in each individual and the community of God is most complete when the diversity of God is together in the diversity of God’s creation. The church should be a community where those who are cautious about stepping out can enjoy the pleasure of those who do and those with the courage and ability to step out caring for those who need safety and warmth.