An Advent Reflection from the Chair of Inclusive Church
Advent is upon us-a season of light and a season of darkness. Christians use Advent to prepare to welcome the birth of Jesus of Nazareth- the light of the world- at Christmas. But Advent is more than simply waiting for something else to happen. The whole season provides for an honest look at both the coming light and also the darkness of our world. 2016 has brought much darkness – the darkness of warfare and conflict, the darkness of prejudice and fear, the darkness of hatred. At times the light has been hard to discern, but like the earliest dawning of sunrise it is there. It is there when kindness and compassion meet pain and distress. It is there when those who are attacked simply for being who they are respond with grace and gritty determination.
The light is present in what Inclusive Church is able to facilitate each and every month. With you and your support light has been brought into places where people feel isolated, light has been brought into discussions in churches and house groups, light has been brought into places of confusion about what inclusion means. One of the most encouraging items on the agenda at each meeting of the Trustees is the list of churches who have indicated a desire to be part of our charity by signing up to the Inclusive Church statement. Each of these churches represents a determination to bring light to their members and to the communities which they serve. We have continued to develop resources to enable the light of love and inclusion to burn brightly in those places which may have appeared dark. Thank you to everyone whose contribution has enabled this part of our work.
Advent reminds us that we must keep alert. We must keep alert to the light in the midst of difficulty. This is particularly challenging as we engage with, what feels to some, seismic shifts in our world, and in the approach to ‘others’. Whether it is to those people who are different to us, or to ideologies which we don’t share, we must be determined to look for light and not allow darkness to have the final word.
It was into the darkness of night and despair that the light of the world was born. This event of darkness is not just at Christmas but light breaks into darkness in a myriad of places if we can but see it. The challenge to us who are members and supporters of Inclusive Church is to refuse the darkness more air-time than we give to the light. This is part of our motivation to do what we do – to have those difficult discussions, to meet those painful issues, to sit with the stories of pain and distress, because eventually there is and will be light. The light which is borne through the processes in which we engage will be an enduring light – just as is the light of Christmas. This light banishes the darkness for good and it is this for which we work and wait. This is the light of Christmas, slowing dawning during Advent, fanned into being by those who, like you, are determined to be light for others.
This journey isn’t easy, it isn’t without difficulty, but we undertake it together, strengthened by the knowledge that what we have in common is so much greater than anything which divides us. Thank you for being part of the light of new life which we believe that Inclusive Church brings to the whole church. May that great light of Christ shine strongly in your hearts as you journey through Advent and await the birth of our Saviour – who we love and serve.
Dianna Gwilliams. Dean of Guildford and Chair of Inclusive Church
As an Associate of the U.K. ‘Inclusive Church’, I appreciate this ADVENT homily by Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford in the Church of England, and also the Chair of the U.K. organisation that seeks to open up the life, worship and ministry of the Church to all people – regardless of race, ethnic origins, gender or sexual orientation.
Dianna’s insights into the ‘darkness and light’ along the pilgrim journey of the Church are a valuable reminder of the fact that we are called to be witness to The Light of Christ, whose redemptive love and openness to all people is at the heart of the Gospel we are called to proclaim.
The Way is difficult but never impossible – except in those dark places of the world where God’s inclusive love is withheld. Wherever there is prejudice and criminal activity that darkens the lives of intrinsically ‘different’ people from ourselves, it can be a threat to those bearers of The Light who continue to press for openness to others.
May Almighty God help us to support all who feel excluded from the Love and Light of Christ in our world; through the saving power of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand