St Leonards Church
Hi, my name is Elaine and I am part of the ministry team of the Benefice of churches in this area. I am not ordained, but for the past 25 years I have been a Licensed Lay Minister; this means that alongside my day job (as a School Science Technician) I have been able to lead services, give talks, lead Alpha Courses, run children’s Holiday Clubs, and have fun being creative and playing games at Messy Church!
My faith is very important to me, it is right at the core of my life. However, I don’t see my relationship with Jesus only as something to bring me personal fulfilment and peace, although of course it certainly does. When someone once asked Jesus what they should do to achieve eternal life, Jesus simply directed them to two commandments: love God, and love your neighbour. He went on to stress that “neighbour” doesn’t just mean family, friends, those who are going to love you back, or even those who are the same sort of people as you are. In fact, in one of his most powerful parables, the Good Samaritan, Jesus made the point that God especially wants us to reach out as neighbours to people who are not like us at all. Jesus wasn’t talking about a passive, general love, but about spreading kindness in an active way amongst the community, something his brother James in his letter to a new church described as “works”. James, who was a very direct guy, simply pointed out “Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead”.
When I moved to this area a year ago, I soon realised that there is a very positive sense of community and a lot of people (both those who go to church and those who currently don’t) who are actively helping others in need. Obviously right now we are all deeply concerned about the refugees from Ukraine who have had to leave their homes and everything familiar to them, under traumatic circumstances, and will be coming to live in a country where they may not at first even be able to understand the language. We want to make them feel welcome and valued, and I am sure there will be many ways to do that during the coming months, although it is important that we coordinate our actions and make sure we listen carefully to what their needs really are.
There are, however, many other people who are struggling with the harshness of life, although they haven’t been displaced by war. The rising cost of living has forced even more families into food poverty; our donations to the local Food Bank (and I am not talking about the occasional tin of beans or bag of pasta!) are incredibly important. Our amazing local charity shops, which serve the double purpose of raising money for good causes as well as recycling resources so that everyone benefits, are always thrilled when new, enthusiastic volunteers come along. Crucially, there is the simple caring support which all of us can do, however busy our lives are, like being there to listen when a friend is miserable or having a coffee with someone who is lonely.
I think we should be proud to live in this area, where we look out for each other and reach out with practical help where it is needed. I am sure that God is proud of us too.