Abide with us
Do you enjoy meetings? I do. I know it’s a bit odd, but I enjoy sitting around a table, talking to other people, thinking about what they’ve said. As the words and ideas fill the air I sit and draw mind maps, fill the margins with doodles, make notes to myself on things to follow up or think about. Belbin’s Team Roles define this as a ‘Resource Investigator’, I think this roughly translates as ‘ideas stealer’.
One recent meeting that I’m still mulling over is last months’ CTE Forum. It was full of nuggets of wisdom to bury and store like autumn acorns, to be dug up and re-discovered sometime in the depths of winter. There are three things in particular that have stayed with me.
The first is an image. The Rose Window in Westminster Abbey. Vincent Nichols described it like this during the Monday evening conversation about the transforming presence of Christ;
“Look at a rose window; it has Jesus at its centre. When that focus is there, the window has its coherence. Without that focus, the window could just be a splattering of disjointed images. When your life is centred on Christ, it’s transformed.”
For me, this is a beautiful image of the ecumenical movement – all of us, despite our differences, seeking to live the way of Jesus in the world.
The second is words, from Janet Scott reflecting on the Road to Emmaus story. We can all be guilty at times of talking about faith without living it. For Quakers, most of what faith is about is living it. ‘Remember Christianity is not a notion but a way’ we are reminded in Quaker Faith and Practice. The story reminds us that Christianity is about community; ‘Abide with US, with all of us’. That sense of community, and of Jesus being with us always, becomes important when we think about the challenges we face in our world;
“For all of us, we are living in particularly dark times (…) The lies, the violence, the rampant inequality - we should be outraged. The consumerism and the debt. We are killing ourselves off and we are stealing the future. We are doing it too. What we need is spiritual warfare, the lamb’s war has to be undertaken. We have to be able to be counter-cultural, to stand against. To stand against lies with truth, to stand against violence with peace, to stand against inequality with justice, to stand against consumerism with simplicity. We have to take on that darkness and we cannot do it in our own power, only if Jesus abides with us.”
The third is an image and words. Over the course of Forum we were invited to weave a piece of thread into a frame, as a symbol of our journey together. Reflecting on the finished weaving, Rachel Parkinson challenged us to think about what we might do with the weaving; what, in the end, is the point of this ecumenical enterprise?
“What would we do with it now? Is it a welcome mat that we will spread for refugees and asylum seekers? Or would it be a shawl to give dignity to migrants who have drowned on the journey? Is it a safety net that together we will hold below those who have been pushed to the very edge of despair? Or a shawl we will wrap around the shoulders of the bereaved? Is it a table cloth upon which we will lay out a feast for the hungry? Or a blanket we will offer to those who are out in the cold? Is it the banner under which we will gather as we protest for justice and all those things together? Is it the coat we will spread on the ground as we welcome the Christ we share.”
I hope we can dig up these acorns, and all the things we have learnt from each other, to provide food in the depths of winter.
Hilary is National Coordinator of the Student Christian Movement and was Deputy Moderator of CTE’s 2018 Forum.
Information, Reports, Videos, Pictures of Forum 2018