A Teller of Stories

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I’ve recently realised that part of my Pioneer Ministry role is that of of story teller and interpreter, and also  being a collector and curator of these stories…… so I  thought I’d spend some time trying to explore and explain what  I mean by this?

The Bible of course is full of stories, different kinds of stories – Parables – Histories – Prophesy (as well as poetry, but that’s for another time maybe). Each type of story contains and holds “a truth” but that truth is displayed differently in each type of story. Truths are not always the same as simple facts, truths may need unpicking and unpacking, they maybe hard to understand merely as “facts” but easier to understand as experiences, or stories.

So, I’ve become an accidental collector, curator and teller of local stories, contemporary stories; historical & memory stories about communities and places. Stories of people and places long gone, as well as those still standing. Stories of, how people have made change happen, what dreams they have dreamt. Memories of buildings past and present; like how the church at Tabor came to be the first public building on the estate, of mission huts, and the “church plants” (in the 1940-50’s). In and through these, we can gather a sense of place, of a bigger journey of which ours is merely a part, not an individuals story, but a collective story of a living, changing community.

Alongside these collective and community “histories” are the individual life stories, not just past but importantly in the present. Stories of lives being lived, choices being made, hurts shared, struggles survived and celebrations enjoyed. Here in these stories we find and can share our humanity, we identify we are not alone in our grief, or our addiction, or our pain. Nor a we the first to try something new, or the first to succeed or fail.

These stories have a sense in which they become part of our Sacred Stories – the stories that alongside our ancient texts, with their lasting truths,make our lives and our faith alive and present.

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Love Your Neighbour

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Today is June 6th, 72 years ago “Allied” forces fought on the beaches of Northern France in the D-Day landings to start the liberation of Europe from the horrors of Nazism. Thankfully Europe has not seen war in its midst on such a scale since, although sadly it continues in other parts of the globe. Europe however, is facing it’s own very real crisis of identity and politics – the upcoming EU Referendum in Britain is but one part of this.
Whatever the result on the 23rd June the thing that now seems clearest is that from the 24th we will be left with a dis-United Kingdom. It is unlikely that either “side” will win a convincing majority, and  it is quite possible that Scotland, Wales, the North of Ireland will each vote differently to England. Whether #Brexit or #Bremain win the day it is  unlikely that we will have arrived at a view about what being a UK citizen in the 21st Century looks and feels like. The big questions the debate has helped open up will remain; “what do we  (UK) stand for” “who we are” as a nation will still be open to disagreement.
The debate on each side has been dominated by economics and immigration policy – and each side has used its share of negativity and “fear” projections. Each side has also contained its own progressive and reactionary elements within it, at times adding more confusion and haze and fog to an already unclear picture of the true direction of travel following whichever outcome triumphs.
A a Christian I believe that our voting on the day, and our reactions to the result and the re-forming process beyond should largely rest on two key commands (Mark 12. 30-31):
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [and] ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Of course the question that underlies this command, and that any demands our prayerful thought before June 23rd, and constant consideration beyond is “who is [our] neighbour?” (Luke 10.29). Now clearly we live in a world where nowadays it obvious that there is a legitimacy in regarding every person from every nation as our neighbours, so we  need to dig deeper in our response to avoid well intended but essentially glib responses. In my life I’ve had many neighbours; some of them have been good friends, they’ve dropped round for a chat, they’ve helped out in times of need. I’ve also had bad neighbours, neighbours who were noisy, neighbours who have kicked down my door and even stolen from me.
Of course, the Bible tells us of Jesus response to the who is my neighbour question. It’s there in the Parable of the Good Samaritan – once again reminding us that we don’t pick and choose our neighbours, in the same way that good neighbours don’t pick and choose when to do the right thing.  Now of course, if we truly loved our neighbour (and they loved us) in or out would make no difference because the end result would be the same – Love  requires us to do what is best not just for ourselves but our neighbour too, as such love needs no treaty to ensure it is fulfilled.
Whatever the result is declared on 24th June will have a profound effect on the UK , it will undoubtedly effect our own domestic political landscape, it is likely to lead to further questions around the nature of Union and Devolution within the UK, and will also demand further examination of what “Britishness” and being a UK Citizen mean in the 21st century.  How we relate to each other within the UK, Europe and the rest of the world as good neighbours will all need examination following the referendum result, I hope that it is a challenge that Christians will be up to.