Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

Putting up Fences

31 May 2021

On your mental sketch pad, imagine a large square with four quadrants. Bottom left, our house. Top left, Pete and Pam. They've been living there since the house was built, around 22 years. Bottom right, John and Laura, who moved in about four years ago. Top right, folk renting the house (we looked at buying it once but decided it wasn't for us). The internal lines in the drawing are the fences.

Excluding top right, the fencing between our three houses was absolutely rotten, quite literally held up by ivy. So it's been replaced and the ivy torn up. For lots of reasons this has taken several weeks to complete. During that time there's been nothing between our garden and Pete & Pam's garden and only a low broken stone wall between our garden and John & Laura's.

The interesting thing is that prior to all this happening, Pete mentioned to me in passing that he and Pam had never really had much of a conversation with John and Laura. Access to both properties (and ours) is off the same street, but there's not much connection diagonally across the garden fence. But no fence for a few weeks, and the four of them have been chatting across their mutual corner. For a short time the dividing line no longer existed.

This seems to be the message of Pentecost as recorded by Luke in Acts 2. "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?" Luke provides us with this imaginative story that proclaims the essential message of Pentecost, and indeed the essential message of Jesus, which is that the spirit of God is for all people, not just for those who thought it was for themselves. The spirit of God breaks down the barriers, the fences, that we all tend to build just to keep ourselves comfortable and secure in our own little haven. We belong to each other - we are family, the human family.

Do you remember the immediate local response to the Grenfell Tower disaster? Hundreds of local people turned out to offer help, and the pictures revealed a community of the nations, drawn together by the common need to provide food and shelter. Nationality didn't matter - there were more important things to focus on. We need to focus our Christian thoughts on looking outward from our church buildings, on engaging with our local community, and working in partnership with all who share a vision of humankind united.

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