When I was a little girl growing up in Wales, most people I knew were ‘CofW’ (Church of Wales) or ‘Baptist’. There was a class element in this – those in the C of W were usually more middle class than the Baptists. But most of us were whatever we were and we stayed that way. It wasn’t until I went to University that I came across anyone who changed their religion – and in that case it was two of my friends who converted to Islam when they married. It turned out others ‘converted’ to other parts of Christianity. It was often a fraught process – and back then it was far less easy than it is now to find out details of what other churches believed. What struck me, and still sticks with me, is what it means to be a Christian, let alone be a Catholic, an Anglican, a Baptist or whatever? We get glimpses of it here.
For most of the people I have known, being a Christian was only a part of who they were, and this, I think, is why it can seem to some as though we are picking and choosing. We are made new in Christ, but the old Adam (or Eve) is far from erased, and so we make accommodations. Few of us can devote the whole working week to the Lord, and the society in which most of us live is one at best indifferent, and at worst actively hostile to our Christianity – and in places and at times, it becomes increasingly difficult to offer the sort of public witness which, for example, Geoffrey Sales and others who do street preaching offer. But they can do no other – and from me, at least, that commands great respect. They are carrying out the Great Commission.
If I can venture into an area which seems to have occasioned some turbulence here – love, it seems to me that we risk, as so often, over-thinking, and thus over complicating, it. It seems to me not that complicated. To those in pain, to those who seek our help, and to those in needs, we offer our time and compassion and help. Where I am working now some do this, as I do, in the Lord’s name, some do it in the name of their faith in our common humanity. I didn’t think the refugees we’re working with cared why we are doing it, and I am sure many don’t, and yet just the other day one woman, who had seen me make the sign of the Cross before praying the Angelus, said: ‘you Christian? Me too’. She asked if we could pray together. So we did, kneeling down and saying the Lord’s Prayer. It turned out she was a Syrian Orthodox Christian, but at that moment, in that somewhat spartan hall, as we knelt together, all that mattered was we were sisters in Christ. Perhaps that’s all that ever really matters?