Harvest Hands

by Elaine Lindridge.

When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers!   On your knees and pray for harvest hands!
Matthew 9:36-38

I wonder when you read this passage what kind of harvest scene comes to mind? Perhaps you see rolling, yellow fields with full crops ready to be gathered in by the farmer.  In my mind’s eye I don’t see that calming, picture postcard scene –I see people. Lots and lots of people. Crowds like one might expect to see in the city centre High Street on the Saturday before Christmas. Fields of people, people who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

In this passage recorded in Matthew we read that when Jesus saw the crowds he was heartbroken, or as most translations put it, he had compassion on them. These people are important to Jesus and his love for them is evident in his reaction.

We know that the decline in membership, attendance and new disciples that we see – for most of us, it’s all we’ve ever known. Therefore it can be tempting to pray for a harvest of new people. But note the specific call from Jesus to pray not for the harvest, the harvest is already there, but to pray for harvest hands, to pray for missionaries.

When I visit churches and circuits, so many times I see that the problems they have are not so much about a lack of money, or the rule book (CPD), or opportunities or good ideas.  Rather, it’s about people, namely not having enough people to be involved in the mission activities – the labourers are few. (Note I’m not talking about having people just to fill the many vacant jobs ‘needed’ in each local church).

So, I find myself asking, am I, are we, praying for more harvest hands, for more missionaries?

Throughout my District (Newcastle upon Tyne) I’ve been making a plea that we join in prayer for more harvest hands and at 10am on Mondays many of us pause to pray this prayer;

Lord of the Harvest, we pray for more Harvest Hands.
We come to you knowing that the Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
We pray for willing Harvest Hands to join in your work in our communities so that all may come to know they are loved and cherished.
As we commit ourselves to pray, renew our hope and restore our passion so that we might welcome your guidance and influence.
May your kingdom come and your will be done. Amen.

Percentage wise, there are less and less people in Britain today involved in church or professing Jesus as Lord. We can see that as a huge problem, or we can see it as a wonderful opportunity. The mission/harvest field is literally on our doorstep, in our supermarkets, in the gym, the pub and the coffee shop. It’s at the bus stop and at the sport event. The mission field even walks through the doors of our church buildings and pays us to book our hall. We are not overwhelmed with problems but with opportunities.

When we pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send missionaries, more Harvest Hands, we ought to consider listening very carefully. It may well be that God is calling us to respond, maybe we are to be part of the answer to our own prayers.

If you want to connect with this more ‘like’ the Harvest Hands Facebook page via this link.


The Story and the Road

by Jonathan Pye.

Amongst this year’s holiday reading for me was the novel, The Beekeeper or Aleppo by Christy Lefteri[1]. In the book (and don’t worry, there won’t be any ‘spoilers’ if you’ve not read it yet…), we share the journey of Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra, as they flee the war-torn ruins of their life in the Syrian city of Aleppo, to an uncertain future in Britain. It is a story that resonates with the reality of pain and loss, as well as the hope, that is experienced by so many. As we travel with Nuri and Afra, and share in their story, in all its tenderness and horror, the less they remain anonymous ‘refugees’ and the more we come to see them as people, individuals, each with their own story to tell. We are invited into their story as we travel with them on the perilous journey, by land and sea, from a ruined home and shattered past to an unknown and as yet uncertain future in a foreign country. It is a book that deals with two themes – of journeys and of stories, and about the way in which they intersect. The more we travel with people, the more we get to know them. As conversations unfold, and relationships are built, preconceptions are dispelled, labels are confounded and we begin to see people as they are, to see them as individuals to be known and loved.

One of the chapters in Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World is titled, ‘The Practice of Walking on the Earth’[2]. This chapter is all about ‘intentional’ walking – walking that focuses on the journey and not simply on the destination. One of the dangers of the busy-ness of ministry is that our eyes can all too easily become focussed on destinations, on the next thing in an over full diary, the next meeting, the next place we need to be, and so we fail to recognise the importance and the insights of the journey itself and the encounters, with self or others, which it brings.

There is a phrase attributed to St. Augustine – solvitur ambulando (‘it is solved by walking…’). It is a curious phrase that refers to the way in which some things are only truly worked out when you apply them practically. Augustine got the phrase from the philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope (or Diogenes the Cynic, as he is sometimes called) who was said to have answered Zeno’s paradox of the reality of motion simply by getting up and walking about – the best proof, he was saying, is often the practical one.

Bruce Chatwin’s book, The Songlines[3], is a book that reflects on aboriginal culture and about the way in which the first nation people of Australia navigate the landscape without the use of maps but find their way, sometimes across great distances, by ‘singing’ the stories of the land that have been passed down from generation to generation. In just the same way, we learn to navigate the communities which we serve as we walk them and as we listen to the stories of others and as we sing and share our own stories on our common journey.

The Methodist Presidential and Vice-Presidential theme this year is, ‘So, what’s the story?’. This theme starts from the premise that life is a tapestry of stories that help us better to understand the world around us, our relationships with other people, and even ourselves. In life and in ministry we constantly use stories to reach out to others and those stories enrich our knowledge of God and help us grow in faith.

The Austrian philosopher and priest, Ivan Illich, was once asked what he thought was the most effective way to change society[4]. Was it revolution or was it reformation? His answer was, ‘Neither’. If you want to change society, he said, then you have to tell an alternative story.

The challenge for the Church is, How do we learn to tell the story of God in a world in which talk about God is unfamiliar and strange? This, of course, is not a new question. It was also faced by Isaiah and the exiles and they phrased it like this… ‘How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ What that meant for them was, How do we worship God when we no longer have all those things that make faith safe – the Temple, the altar, the priesthood… ?

If we are going to speak of God effectively in the world and tell the stories of faith we cannot use the church as a place to hide because what we see happening ‘in the world’ is frightening, whether it is the chaos of Brexit, food poverty, the demands of the Nuris and the Afras and countless other refugees who seek sanctuary from the destructiveness of war or poverty or persecution, or the global crisis that is climate change and the degradation of our fragile environment.

If we are going to tell our transformative, alternative story, we need to be alongside others, to share their lives and their stories and, as part of that sharing, to have the courage and the confidence to tell our own story: the story of God’s love, God’s concern, God’s compassion. Ultimately, the Church is not an idea or a doctrine or an organization but, what Professor Dan Hardy calls ‘the practice of shared faith.’[5]

In his Booker Prize winning novel, The Famished Road[6], Ben Okri has one of his characters say, ‘the story is the road’ – as our stories and journeys intersect, the opportunity for humans to flourish grows and lives are changed.


[1] Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. London: Zaffre, 2019

[2] Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World. Norwich: Canterbury Press (2nd Impression), 2019

[3] Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines. Picador Books, 1988.

[4] Ivan Illich, ‘Storytelling or Myth-Making? Frank Viola and Ivan Illich’, Proclamation, Invitation, & Warning, July, 2007.

[5]Daniel W. Hardy, Finding the Church. London: SCM, 2001.

[6] Ben Okri, The Famished Road. London: Vintage, 1991.

Crossing divides with Jesus

by Tom Greggs.

I have a terrible habit. Well, I have several; ask my wife for details! But the terrible habit I have which is relevant to this context is that every morning before anything else that I do I take my phone and press the BBC app to read the news. Before praying, before a coffee, before telling my wife I love her, before getting a shower, my addiction to the news has to be satisfied.

Part of this addiction stems from what seems to be an ever-increasing changed reality in the world: we are divided, and we are entrenching ourselves in our divides. Brexit is the pressing example, but there are so many. And globally, there are increased tensions between nations, and there is a tide of populism which sets one group at odds with another and intensifies differences.

Having grown up in what seem to be (for me at least) the halcyon days of the 1990’s with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the Good Friday Agreement, and Third Way Politics, it is easy to see this new ‘glocalism’ as it is termed with all of its potential for vicious cycles of divisive politics as a new phenomena. Perhaps some of us feel a little like we are reliving past global periods from the previous century—whether the 1910’s or 1930’s. But the capacity for humans to create divisions among ourselves is as old as time. And it is an issue to which the gospel addresses itself directly.

I cannot help but think of Jesus’ engagement with the Samaritans when faced with the divisions we see in our contemporary world. It’s difficult for us to understand the level of hostility, stretching back many centuries, that existed between Jews and Samaritans.[i] The Samaritans were the descendants of the Jews who did not go into exile and were hostile to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. Their purity as a people was called into question, and, although they recognized only the first five books of the Jewish scriptures, they did follow Jewish ritual. These themes were focused on the establishment of a rival temple at Mt Gerezim, and the recognition of a different line of priestly descent. Their proximity to and alienation from the Jewish people led to fierce rivalry between the peoples.[ii] Perhaps we hear this most clearly of all in Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Samaria: “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)” (Jn 4:9). Even the basics of water seem to be an impossible offering for these two so different people—divided by religious grouping and by gender.

When we read stories of Jesus engaging with these groups, we are wise to recall his capacity to cross divisions and divides with grace and with truth because Jesus never leaves the divisions there without interrupting, traversing and disturbing the divides. He doesn’t blur the lines, or falsely claim that “we all agree really”. He doesn’t sacrifice truth for grace any more than he sacrifices grace for truth. He is after all clear: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22). But this doesn’t stop him affirming, ministering to and loving the member of the other ‘tribe’ as one of God’s children.

Jesus, after all, repeatedly attends to the needs of the Samaritans he meets. As well as the role of needs in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, in the story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus attends to the Samaritan’s physical needs by curing him of his leprosy (Lk. 17.16-19).  Human needs are also pointed to in the famous story of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37). Feeling pity for the injured man, the Samaritan tends to his needs (v.33), and the Christian is charged in her relation with the other from whom she is divided to respond with mercy, and to recognize the mercy with which others may attend to her.

Jesus acknowledges who these people are before God—as God’s children despite the tribal differences that exist. He does not villainise them, but makes them heroes and examples of God’s mercy (the Good Samaritan), or those who give thanks to God (the Samaritan Leper), or one who will worship in spirit and in truth (the Samaritan woman). He does not see them first as Samaritans, but first—even in all their divisions from Jesus—as the children of the One God.

What are we, in so divided a nation and so divided a world, to learn from the one who crossed the most difficult socio-political divides of his own age with truth and with grace?



[i] Relations between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel following the period of the united monarchy of Saul, David and Solomon were never particularly good. When the northern kingdom fell in 722-721BCE, the Assyrians deported the Israelites and brought in pagans from neighbouring nations who worshipped Yahweh alongside other gods. This was a practice that 2 Kings 17.41 suggests was carried out by the descendents of these new inhabitants, thus polluting the purity of the theology and ritual of the northern nation. Moreover, in the years 589 and 587BCE the ancient Jewish people were disrupted by the most cataclysmic disaster of their history to that point. Having been brought to the promised land, having built the temple and centralised the cult upon it, the people were sent into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. The effects of this were enormous, and most significant among them was the loss of the temple in 587BCE. The people who returned following the exile began to understand themselves as superior to the people who had remained in the land, and to their neighbours to the north who lived around the city of Samaria. The root of this antagonism seems to be the opposition of the authorities in Samaria to the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls of Jerusalem. The Samaritans had their own rival priesthood and temple at Mount Gerezim, and opposed the Jerusalem cult, even enacting violence towards pilgrims travelling through Samaria.

[ii] For more on the Samaritans, see Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 378f. & 499-501; and Richard Bauckham, ‘The Scrupulous Priest and the Good Samaritan: Jesus’ Parabolic Interpretation of the Law of Moses’, New Testament Studies, 44:4 (1998), 475-489.


Who represents?

by Raj Bharat Patta.

As a child I remember the ‘parable of the ten virgins’ (Matthew 25: 1-13) enacted as a musical play by the moms in our local Bethany Lutheran Church in India. Ten women dressed in white, holding lanterns in their hands journeyed to meet the bridegroom. Tired and lowering the flame of their lanterns, they all fell asleep. Suddenly at repeated loud shouts, they woke one after the other, and started adjusting the flame for more light. Five carried a bottle of oil and filled their lanterns, but the others did not have sufficient oil and were struggling to trim their lanterns. These five women requested their friends to lend some oil; but the others did not have sufficient to share and directed them to a dealer to buy more. The groom arrives and enters the wedding banquet with the five women whose lanterns are burning. When the other five knock, calling him, ‘Lord, Lord,’ the reply comes that he does not know them. The facial expressions of the five women who made it inside are gloomy that their five other friends could not join them. The woman narrator of the play concludes: ‘Keep awake, be prepared to meet the returning groom, for he can come at any time of the day or night.’ The play was written, directed, sung and performed by the moms of the Women’s Fellowship in our local Church. This enacted parable has stayed in my memory, and now when I am reading Matthew 25: 1-13, it comes alive, making me nostalgic for my local congregation.

The role of women in parables provides a political hermeneutical key in understanding this gospel passage. Nicola Slee observes the male dominance in New Testament parables with the preponderance of male characters and roles.[i] She notes that in the Gospel of Matthew alone out of a total of 85 characters, as mentioned in 104 parables and sayings, 73 are men and 12 are women. Even among the 12 women, 10 are these bridesmaids, which makes only 3 instances where women are mentioned in the whole 104 parables. We are called to recognise the under-representation of women and their ‘invisibility’ in the Scriptures, challenging readers to ‘hear to speech’ the voices of women in the text. This example exposes the politics of recording a parable; not only do male writers and narrators hardly mention any women, when they do, they use male dominant language. In v.2, he introduces five as ‘foolish’ and five as ‘wise.’ The male writer begins with a prejudice against the first five by calling them ‘foolish.’ In our mom’s church play, all ten women entered the stage as friends with lanterns in their hands, all of them were dressed in white. The first five were trying to help the other five by directing them to oil dealers, and they had gloomy faces when their friends did not make it to the banquet. This enactment demonstrates that if women were recording their own stories, representing their own experience and narrating it in their own language, the parable would have had a totally different perspective. This therefore calls us to confess the politics of patriarchy in the text, and such a confession invites us to a subversive reading of the narratives of the parables from the context of invisible, colonised and under-represented communities. The politics of re-presentation must be addressed in any hermeneutical engagement of Biblical texts – this parable of the ten women challenges us towards that.

This is a parable of the ten unnamed women. Most translations have recorded the women in this parable as virgins, some others as bridesmaids; however, the politics of re-presentation challenges us not to define any one’s identity by their role or status or occupation. The caste system in India and elsewhere has been operating on the notions of purity and pollution, for people are divided into dominant castes and outcastes based on descent and occupation. To recognise people as people and not through any of their roles or status or occupation is an important marker for a just and equal society.

The parable then is a recognition of the fact that the divine in Jesus communicates the eschatological message of last judgement through these unnamed, under-represented women, who at times in Christian history and, from some perspectives still in the Christian present, are seen as incapable of being the bearers of the Gospel. This parable therefore is an affirmation of the strength of women as bearers, instruments, agencies, and resources of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In our moms’ play, when it was written and performed by all women, one could feel the dancing of the Gospel coming alive, for the Spirit of God through our moms gripped us all to turn towards God, and made a lasting impact and impression in the lives of the audience there.

This parable challenges us to discuss who represents whom today in our churches and societies. It is time that the Church starts hearing to speech those on the margins and giving a listening ear to the voice of the divine which has been groaning to be heard. Representation is aligned deeply with identity, and identity is a sum total of who we are as a person and the groups to which we belong to. In the multicultural post-secular British context today, the identity of those on the margins matters, and their representation is imperative in nurturing faith for our times.


[i] Slee, Nicola, “Parables and women’s experience,” in Modern Churchman, 26 no 2 1984, p 20-31.

Digging Deep for Pearls

by Barbara Glasson.

According to the Myers Briggs personality indicator I am very strongly introvert. ‘Don’t be silly, darling, of course you’re not!’ was the response of my extrovert mother. Which proved the point really; the point being that I thought she never listened and she thought I never told her anything.

As a child the thought of ‘being introvert’ hadn’t yet been invented. The definition was ‘being shy’ and this was something that you could clearly get over. Getting over being shy was just a matter of plucking up courage and saying something, learning some social graces and putting yourself ‘out there’. Being shy could stop you having friends and make you feel gauche and isolated. Being shy was a problem. But being introvert is most certainly not a problem – it’s a gift, it’s not something to be got over, it’s something to be claimed!

Being introvert is not the same as being unfriendly. As a friendly introvert one is in the cleft stick of really loving people and being totally exhausted by them. Really liking people means you will listen to them deeply and intently and really empathise with what they are saying; being introvert also means that all that intense listening is going to fill up your head until it has no room for thinking. The result is you forget things and get easily confused by simple tasks, well that’s my excuse for leaving my laptop behind.

I’ve just returned from the Greenbelt festival, which is why I am in a room upstairs on my own writing this (on my returned laptop) and recovering from being with fifteen thousand people for a whole weekend. It’s not that I don’t like people, I really do, I find them interesting and weird, complicated and funny. It’s just that, in my opinion, like chocolates, you’re better off enjoying them one at a time rather than by the box-full.

My Greenbelt didn’t seem much like anybody else’s. I didn’t go to any talks or any music or any stalls but I really got to know a lovely taxi driver from Ghana called Alec and the security guard on night duty at the gate and, whilst reading poetry out loud to myself in an empty tent I met two lovely young people and read them some poetry too. And on the Sunday morning, when there was the huge communion service in the main arena, which was all about Christmas and had camels and everything, I stayed in the Methodist sponsored tent called the Foundry to listen from afar.

But interestingly, so did about a hundred other people, all seeking quiet and gentle conversation and good coffee and that was so lovely. I moved outside on the grass and smiled, because there are a lot of us introverts around.

So what’s the story? They do say, if you don’t know what an extrovert is thinking you haven’t listened and if you don’t know what an introvert is thinking you haven’t asked. And an introvert’s ‘story’ will take time and pondering and gentleness to form and find words. We need space (and good coffee) and we’re not afraid of the silences and long pauses. In a group or meeting introverts may well be the last to speak, not because we are shy, but because we are still working out what to say. Just be patient, don’t keep asking if we are ok, just bear with us and eventually, with time, you never know there may well be a pearl of great price!

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

by Christopher Collins.

My holiday reading this summer included Yaa Gyasi’s outstanding first novel Homegoing. It’s a masterpiece of story telling following the fate of the descendants of two sisters born in Africa. One is sold into slavery and the other becomes a slave trader’s wife – the effects of which fissure down the generations: from the Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi, missionary schools to the dive bars of Harlem. It’s the story of one family separated by generations and oceans.

The story ends in the current generation. Marcus is living the dream of a college education researching the enduring scar of the trade – discrimination, accusation, addiction and poverty. But the more he delves into the stories of his own family, he becomes increasingly aware of the disconnect from the culture in which their fate has placed them. It is only when he visits the Gold Coast, home, and swims in the ocean in which his ancestors swam, and saw the land that his ancestors farmed, that he found connection, peace and healing.

Healing was in a homegoing to the land that fundamentally formed him.

And that got me thinking about how we theologically respond to the climate emergency that is unfolding before our very eyes.

We could approach it by looking at the consequences of climate change through the lens of the Parable of the Good Samaritan we read in Luke 10. The ones who suffer the most, like the beaten man, are not the ones who have added disproportionally to the problem. Changes to the world’s climate have their greatest impact on the nations in the global South. Nations that don’t have the means to adapt quickly to their changing climate.

In that context, I wonder who historians who look back on the twentieth and early twenty-first century will say are like the Levite and Priest – the ones who saw the need but walked on by. Who might the Samaritan be? The one who responds helpfully to the great need to help their world-wide neighbours who are devastated by drought and chronic hunger or who are forced from their homes because of flooding and rising sea levels?

As we look on the consequences of climate change and learn to be the Samaritan in the story, we might need to learn to “love wastefully” as the Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong described it. Loving wastefully means living “a life defined by love that will not seek to protect itself or to justify itself. It will be content simply to be itself and to give itself away with abandon.” [1] Surely this is how the Samaritan loved and how we can mitigate the consequences of a changing climate.

But, is it enough? Is it trying to heal a wound without healing the cause?

In his latest book, They Will Inherit the Earth, John Dear, the Catholic priest, author and activist reflects on words found in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5.5). Meekness, he writes, is what Thomas Merton recognised as non-violence. It is following a life of non-violence, he argues, that enables a oneness with all of God’s creation in which we will turn from our destructive ways.[2]

So, perhaps we need to be more than the ones who bandage and console because, in the view of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we need to find ways to stop the beating in the first place. To live a life of non-violence. Surely this is how we can be the best possible global neighbours and it’s how we can find our own homegoing to the earth out of which we are formed.


[1] Spong, John Shelby, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy, (New York: Harper Collins, 2016) p.366

[2] Dear, John, They Will Inherit the Earth, (New York: Orbis Books, 2018), p.2

Putting the Church in its Place

By Neil Richardson.

‘The world is too much with us’. So wrote William Wordsworth. Suppose we change one word, and consider how the Church is too much with us. To adapt some more famous words (Dr Johnson’s): when two Methodists meet – especially ordained ones – their first talk is of the Church.

We are too church-centred. Admittedly, the English word ‘church’ does duty for many things: a building, a congregation, an organization, the Church universal…… But expressions like ‘supporting the Church’ and ‘keeping the Church going’ are simply not in the New Testament. No wonder Methodists (and perhaps others) talk of ‘having a Sunday off’ – i.e off church.

We often see both the Church and the world wrongly. When that happens, evangelism becomes proselytising: claiming adherents for the Church, as if the Church were an organisation in competition with others – other churches, other faiths, the world itself.

Thomas Merton, in one of his books, posed the question: ‘Is the world a problem?’ It seemed to be a problem to Christians from the beginning. ‘You are not of the world’, says Jesus in John’s gospel (John 15.19). ‘Do not love the world’, says a later writer, (1 John 2.15). Does this mean Christians were called to be ‘in the world, but not of it’? I think not. We often misunderstand John’s gospel on this point. But even if we were called to be in the world, but not of it, doesn’t this mean in practice a nervous balancing act, dipping a toe into the murky waters of the world, wary of being contaminated or compromised? So we Christians appear to be in the world a little reluctantly: semi-detached members of the human race whose real home is elsewhere. A church then becomes a comfort zone, with dissent and controversy screened out, as in ‘Let’s not disturb our nice fellowship by talking about politics – especially Br – it’.

John’s gospel doesn’t call disciples of Jesus to be ‘in the world, but not of it’. Certainly, those words are there – but not in that sequence. The picture John’s gospel gives of Jesus is key here. He is our archetype: not ‘of this world’, because his origin was with God. Yet God sent him into the world (John 3.16 etc). And that is the right order for disciples: ‘born again’ and sent into the world: ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you’ (John 20.19-23). Compare our baptism with that of Jesus. Jesus began his ministry with an astonishing act of solidarity with his people – that is to say, the entire human race – ‘The Word was made flesh’. His ministry ended as it began: ‘numbered with the transgressors’ – a death which became his eternal intercession for the whole human race. So our baptism – baptism into Christ– means joining the human race, as represented by Jesus. And Jesus was more human than any of us – immersed in the life of the world.

‘Born again’ can be misunderstood. St Paul writes of ‘the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12.1-2). That was Simon Peter’s experience in what has been called his second conversion (Acts 10-11). He saw that outsiders weren’t unclean after all. He learned to love foreigners; he embraced the world. And off he went – far away from Jerusalem and Galilee – to places like Caesarea and Corinth. This ‘renewing of our minds’ (‘born again’) is utterly essential for the renewal of the Church. How can we evangelise, unless we are evangelised?

Being a really open church involves far more than allowing other organisations to use our premises. It requires ‘the renewing of our minds’. A church leader once remarked to me, ‘I regard everyone as in, unless they opt out’. If, as I believe, that is faithful to Jesus and the New Testament, then why has the Church turned that into its very opposite: everyone is out(side) unless they opt in? So the Church embraces the world – as its Creator always has.

Being a semi-detached member of the human race is an attractive option these days, and has been down the centuries for Christians – a kind of Gnosticism which doesn’t take seriously the world as God’s creation. But it was not the way of Jesus. Our baptism into Christ means becoming human as he was (and is), and really joining the human race.

This is how Merton concludes his answer to his question ‘Is the world a problem?’

‘The world cannot be a problem to anyone who sees that ultimately Christ, the world, his brother (and sister) and his own inmost ground are made one and the same in grace and redemptive love.’

Measure each day, not by how much you do for the Church, but how full it is of God – and, therefore, of prayer and love.