Two photographs – one is of the south coast of England, at Freshwater Bay, the Isle of Wight, the other is about as far from the sea as you can get, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. The Isle of Wight may be at the country’s edge, yet in our churches there, we discovered a real heart for the Gospel and care for others. West Midlands may be at the heart of the country, but we discovered a minister and a faith community seeking peace and reconciliation at the edges of society, alongside its neighbouring Community for Reconciliation at the Barnes Close Centre.
When we said we were visiting the Isle of Wight, we had comments that it is somewhere that time has passed it by! Well, we found the pace of life seemed slower, and the noise of modern life quieter, but what we did find were Christians full of confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ, and who gave us a welcome and hospitality full of grace and love. Is this not what I look for in every Christian and Church – a heart beating for Jesus – sounds simple, yet many Christians haven’t grasped it yet! They have on the Isle of Wight! We shared in a meeting of island elders, including an elderly, though sprightly elder, Rose of 100 years. The anniversary service at Ryde felt like a large open-hearted family at prayer – and welcomed visitors from Essex and Australia!
The Community for Reconciliation works for “reconciliation with God and with each other, through Christ, in relationships between individuals, communities and nations”. We are blessed by having a URC minister, Ian Ring as director at the centre. The hope of the Community is to effect reconciliation by:
- striving for a just sharing of the world’s resources
- sharing experiences in areas of common interest
- promoting projects and sharing resources to support them
- providing a meeting place for practical expressions and promotion of reconciliation.
It is my hope and prayer that not only at the centre, but that each of our churches can be such a sanctuary of peace and reconciliation, a welcome and spiritual home for all peoples to be safe and affirmed. Clearly this is the ethos at The Beacon Church, Rubery where Ian is also minister. It must be an inclusive church, that accepts everyone, because it is from this church that the nomination came for me to be General Assembly Moderator. Strange that the nomination came from a minister in a church in an area in a synod that I knew nothing about. What a joy now to have visited and met my sisters and brothers in Christ – from the edge of relationship to the heart of God’s family.