Last Sunday, under Mary’s expert supervision, members of Junior Church set up the AFC Bug Hotel in the church shrubbery. It’s a splendid edifice and, I think, if I were a bug I would award it a 5* rating.
This is all part of our EcoChurch programme to look after our grounds in such a way that they are insect, animal and bird friendly. Although we obviously still believe in ‘cultivation’ we are seeking to offer ‘welcome’ rather than ‘domination’ in our relationship with the natural order.
The Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, has just published a very readable book entitled The Humble Church, one we’ll be discussing at next month’s Ministers’ Book Group. In it he advocates that The Church takes it place alongside other groups in society, willing to listen, engage and learn rather than thinking it must always preach, be listened to, and lead the way. It’s a ‘humbler’ model of church and one that seeks to offer a sense of mutual respect. I suppose one example of that at AFC is the recent establishment of the yellow Medic to Medic recycling bin at the back entrance. A member of the congregation heard of this excellent project (not a specifically ‘Christian’ one) and recommended it to us. So now some of our recycling and its proceeds goes to support the training of doctors in Africa. Another example would be the use of our premises over recent months by Buckinghamshire Council as a COVID Testing Station. In all of this we are trying to welcome our community and work, not over them, but humbly alongside.
Offering a welcome can be so affirming.
Whilst on holiday in Malvern last autumn (before the Second Lockdown) we attended Morning Worship at The Priory. We had booked, so as we arrived the steward ticked our names on his sheet and escorted us to our designated seats. We felt so welcomed because those places had carefully and thoughtfully been prepared for us.
As we creep slowly back into a more familiar ‘way of being’, I’m sure we will want to reaffirm that ‘hospitality’ is a major part of any church’s DNA. We want to offer a real welcome and to delight in the welcome given to us by other groups and individuals in society. It’s all part of the companionship we share in walking with God and alongside one another.
So, welcome bugs - to your new AFC hotel!