Diverse United

This week cheer on Diverse United with Phil Stone the Director of the Scargill Movement as he talks about how through community we can overcome insular boundaries and open ourselves and others to the love of God.

At Scargill we are about lives shared – lives transformed with Jesus hopefully right at the centre of everything. Within our community I feel there is both a high degree of unity and a wonderful diversity that needs to be celebrated. Our youngest community member is 10 and our eldest is 70. We have members from Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Nepal, Brazil, Germany and Scotland, we have someone who is about to arrive from Latvia as well as locals from Halifax and Bradford. As well as being an amazingly international group of men and women of all ages we are diverse in our understanding and experience of God within the Christian faith. We are truly ecumenical, representing many different strands of tradition. It is an incredibly diverse bunch of people all somehow bundled together to share God’s hospitality to those who come through our doors.

One of our challenges is to celebrate the diversity of one another which means learning, listening, sharing, and sometimes going beyond our own boundaries, which can be uncomfortable. It is when we mix with the ‘other’ with a heart of hospitality that we can truly begin to see our lives transformed. This is always a challenge for any community because when tired we often gather around those who we feel comfortable with, speak the same language as, who share the same food, and who tell the same jokes. At Scargill there is such a wealth and richness in our community which we could miss out on if we keep our relationships within those we feel ‘comfortable with’.

Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt in their book Radical Hospitality, Benedict’s Way of Love say this, ‘As a spiritual discipline, Benedict understood the importance of encountering those who are different to ourselves as it stretches us; it dislocates stiffness and opens us up to new possibilities. He meant for the monks to do so intentionally.’

Is not God’s Kingdom the invitation to grow and be transformed by God’s love? One way we can do this is celebrating our diversity in the unity that we share in the love of Jesus.

If you are interested in finding out more about getting involved in community life click here to see a list of current vacancies. In addition we are looking for people with backgrounds in administration or maintenance to join the team. If this sounds like you then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Sometimes It Takes A Little Weakness

Phil Stone, Director of The Scargill Movement (an intentional community of Christian men and women in North Yorkshire), talks about the fragile nature of community.

Community, wherever it is, whether or not you’re wearing a monastic habit – always has fragility in it. A community is not a strong place or at least not strong in the way the world tends to think of strength, it will always be a fragile enterprise.

We each take our weaknesses as well as our strengths to communal life. It is important that we are very loving towards each other, we need to carry each other. Out of our weakness God does something beautiful, if we allow it. Community life is not polished, it is not neat and tidy. For it is a place where we can dare to be truly ourselves, accepted and loved for who we are, and yet also challenged to be transformed by the love of God we experience together. Therefore the willingness to express our fragility and vulnerability is at the heart of who we are.

The more I live in community the more I understand that the key is the willingness to love not in a sentimental way but a love that is compassionate, self-giving and vulnerable. St Peter talks about love covering a multitude of sins and the script that Jesus asks us to play out in our lives together is one that is simple but tough and can feel extreme. In John 13 Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Brother Roger of Taize sums it up wonderfully, “Many people ask themselves ‘What does God want of me?’, when we read the Gospel we understand. God asks us to be a reflection of his presence in every situation. God invites us to make life beautiful for those he entrusts to us.”

A Human Being Fully Alive

In only half an hour I will be sharing fun and eating pancakes with my friends. There will be a great sense of belonging and togetherness.

Tomorrow will be Ash Wednesday and Lent begins! I think this season could be a good opportunity not so much for giving up but taking up. Taking up and thinking of how to be good friends. Which of course might mean, not rushing around ‘doing’ all the time. In a sense more ‘being’, taking stock of who we are with God and who we are with each other. Lent is a time for self-examination and an opportunity to open ourselves up again to the love of God and sorting out our priorities.

I have just returned from London having been down to see the church where I was vicar for 13 years. It was a bittersweet experience. It was sweet to experience such love and warmth from many people who I have not seen these last three years. But bitter because although it was lovely to meet up with many good friends, we knew we had to leave them again to head back up North, realising it would be hard to maintain that depth of friendship over the distance. Having friends is so important, they keep us alive, keep us truthful, help us experience the warmth of God! We needs friends, we need to foster our relationships. Perhaps Lent can be a time where we can decide to see some friends, restore some relationships and deepen our love. Saint Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive…” and having friends is a wonderful way of this becoming true. Our friendships help us embrace life and embrace God. As Irenaeus goes on to say “…and to be alive consists in beholding God.”

I am always staggered when I read John 15 that Jesus calls us his friends. Perhaps Lent is a time to deepen that friendship and love for him.

Heart Graffiti

Phil Stone, director of Scargill Movement, talks this week about the graffiti we get on our hearts and what is obscured underneath.

Out of interest the other day I was looking at a job description (don’t worry Scargillites I’m not leaving!) and I saw in the spec that having a theology degree was essential. It raised within me some of the internal struggles I have had to deal with in my journey with God and as a human being. I left school at 16 with only a handful of O levels to rub together. Academic achievement seemed a world away. It was a huge leap from there to being called to ordination at the age of 21. It almost felt impossible as so many clergy had degrees in theology and understood so much.

As a young man my perceived lack of academic abilities was beginning to shape my life and my identity. It has taken several years of prayer and people who have encouraged and supported me for me to discover that I was not as thick as I thought I was and that I could manage the theological training that allowed me to be ordained. I remember my first day at Ridley hall at Cambridge when we were introducing ourselves. When most people were quick to share their doctorates and master degrees and all I had was my two O Levels! It begs the questions where do we find our identity? Since then I have dabbled in some further study.

The deep seated thinking, that I was thick, had become, as a good friend describes, ‘graffiti on the heart’. We’ve all got some. This is an area in which God has had to work on with me. It makes me think that negative graffiti on people’s hearts which shapes their identity stops them from hearing God’s call upon their life.

When I heard God calling for me to be ordained I said to myself, ‘I thought I was thick.’

The question we need to keep asking ourselves is – what is the graffiti on our hearts that God wants us to deal with? And will we allow him? For we have to remember that what God wants to write on our hearts, and is already there if we can get rid of the rubbish, is this – ‘You are my child, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased.’