the gathering and belonging

the gathering got together at the weekend and we explored ‘belonging’ which is kind of the theme of our second aspiration.

We spoke a bit about what it means to belong and how we know we belong. This part of our time together was led brilliantly by Sharon using this very moving and challenging video as a kind of scene setter or discussion starter.

In the discussion after I remember feeling quite sad and challenged as I thought about the things we do to ourselves, and demand of others, so that we feel we ‘belong’ or ‘fit’ or are part of what is happening. I don’t think we are perfect, but as the gathering we genuinely, maybe even desperately,  wish to achieve a community where people just simply can belong. I hate the thought of people having to paint themselves green so that they will be accepted …. the gospels shout aloud about acceptance and equality … the 12 disciples being quite a poignant image of this in their diversity and disagreement.

This Sunday was a key time for the gathering. We welcomed in a new family. Liz wrote a song, which Hannah sang, based on Psalm 139 which was stunningly moving. People made themselves amazingly vulnerable to engage with the gathering this weekend … which kind of follows well from Terry’s thoughts last week. If you can’t be a friend without being vulnerable, then it follows we cannot grow community without being vulnerable with each other and we certainly can’t be accepting so that people belong unless we choose vulnerability rather than security. Of course the downside of being vulnerable is that you get hurt, and over the last 4 years some of my largest ‘anguished moments’ have been over the gathering. That. however, is a small price worth paying.

Back in the day we talked about how people ‘belong’ to the gathering. Lots of churches go for membership in some form, or a commitment to a set of beliefs. We chose neither keeping, instead, a very open view. People belong to the gathering when they decide they belong, not because they have met a certain set of pre-selected criteria. People belong when they choose to travel with us. The Rhythm of Life we are developing is not a condition of membership, but it will help us in our journey with God.

I was excited by the end of Sunday. Not because it was a great session, not because great things happened, but because there was a strong acceptance and care and interest in each other. I felt valued and cared for by this community …. and I think (and hope) that feeling sat with others in the gathering too.

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