As I’m often told, Sunday is my busy day. And yesterday was definitely a busy Sunday with four church services in our two parishes. First off was a quieter service of Morning Worship and then, after coffee, chat and a two-minute drive, I found myself at Holy Communion in the next parish. A quick pit-stop back home for a hasty lunch and then we had Messy Church with far more under 10s than over 60s in the building, which neatly reversed the imbalance at the earlier services. From there I managed to fit in a family meal back home before the local Churches Together evening service hosted in one of our parishes with the Methodist Minister preaching as our guest.
As I put my feet up with a good cup of tea and some essential chocolate, I found myself reflecting on the wonderful diversity of the day. We had had all ages together – from a baby still too young to sit up, let alone walk, to the faithful over 80s, who have been worshipping since they were that age themselves.But what I really found myself smiling about and thanking God for was the incredible multicultural diversity of our gatherings. I love the chat over coffee (or the Messy Church cooked meal) at the end of our services. It’s a time to welcome new faces and begin to learn new names and stories, and to catch up with longstanding members too. Yesterday, I found myself in conversations with people born in Jamaica and St Lucia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Iran and India, China, Cyprus and Poland. Oh, and one or two born British as well – but they were the minority. I know there were other nationalities in the different congregations and some whose parents or grandparents were born elsewhere although they were born British themselves.
For me, this cultural diversity is, without a doubt, the best thing about living where I do. I’ve been here more than a year now but I still get a buzz from hearing all the different languages around me and it still makes me smile that, when I’m walking around the parish, I look the odd one out – not because I’m wearing the clerical collar that marks me out as someone in ordained ministry in the church of God, but because I’m often the only white face, or one of the few women to be seen not wearing a head covering.
For me it all speaks of God’s amazing plans and purposes. I’m here in this place because I believe it’s where God has called me to serve. Me – the woman who was the child who, from a very early age, loved to learn other languages (and even invent her own!), who spent hours writing letters to penfriends all over the world, and whose student and young adult years were filled with learning more of those and other languages while living, working and travelling in far flung places. In recent years, I’ve occasionally lamented the loss of that part of my life as family and career have led me to put down roots which meant I lived more than 20 years in the same house. But now, I find that, instead of sending me abroad somewhere, God has called me to a place where all the nations are already gathered together on my doorstep – and I’m barely three miles from that 20-year-old home. It’s something I am very thankful for.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.