Community and Unity 

The EU Referendum has revealed deep divisions within our country and, indeed, our local community. During the campaign and in the aftermath of the vote, strong feelings have been expressed, and people on both sides have been hurt. There are reports both of a rise in xenophobic behaviour and of people feeling unable to speak about legitimate concerns for fear of being misunderstood. Whilst some are optimistic, others are fearful about the future.
 
There is much work to be done, not only by our national leaders in brokering a good ‘Brexit’ outcome, but also by ordinary people at the local level to heal rifts in communities and restore relationships.
 
One of the most emotive issues in the whole Referendum debate has been immigration. Whatever our views on how or whether immigration should be regulated, Christians must in their attitude and dealing with others take their lead from God, whose heart is revealed in the Bible to be very much for all people.
 
Whilst the Old Testament is focussed on the history of a particular ethnic group, the Israelites, they are told that non-Israelites living with them are not to be mistreated, but to be treated as one of them, loved even (cf Lev 19:33-34), and given an inheritance in the land (cf Ezek 47:21-23). From the very beginnings of the Church in the New Testament, people from all nations have been included and welcomed, irrespective of race or nationality. The Christian faith is about radical hospitality.
 
The Church is called to represent and serve the whole community. As in the wider country, people in our churches and its leadership voted for both Remain and Leave. Some people have been open about their decision, many have kept it private. As our community is not monochrome, neither is the Church. But despite its diversity, it is called and committed to being united.
 
St Paul likens the Church to a human body – a single thing, but made up of many, different and complementary parts. He explains that ‘The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” ’ All the parts are needed and valuable, and there should be no division. It is the diversity of its parts that when working in harmony gives the body its amazing abilities. Just think of the astonishing athletic feats displayed in the recent Olympics.
 
In Chilton and Harwell we have a wonderfully broad mix of ages, temperaments, skills and ethnicities – an inspiring cross-section of God’s diverse creation. As the late Jo Cox MP observed, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. All human beings are made in God’s image and are equally valuable. We need to value and celebrate the diversity of our local community, and the strength and richness that diversity gives. We should say to no-one “I don’t need you”.
 
It is easy, however, to express ourselves badly, to misunderstand one another, and to make unfair assumptions without really taking time to hear what the other is saying. We should always speak with gentleness and respect, and be prepared to apologise when we cause offence or upset, whether intended or not.
 
Good communication is essential for good relationships and a healthy community. Unity, whether in a local church, a village, a country, or even a group of countries, can only be achieved when we are prepared to listen and learn from one another, taking a turn at being an ‘ear’ in the body. Taking time and effort in the months ahead to listen respectfully and carefully will be essential for our political leaders, and for all of us.
 
Let’s make every effort – despite our political, cultural and ethnic diversity – to be united. It is God’s will and plan for his world.
 
“God made known to us the mystery of his will… to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10).
 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey, Rector
Revd Pam Rolls, Associate Minister
Peter Shields, Children & Families’ Worker
September 2016