Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are keeping well and staying safe. Our church is open for Sunday services but we will continue to live-stream our services and send out our newsletter regularly for the foreseeable future.
You can find previous issues of the newsletter on our church website at www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk We would love to hear from you and are looking for uplifting and encouraging content to share in future issues of this newsletter. If you have any ideas or content that we can share, please do email them to Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We start with our opening prayer:
God of all grace,
We come to encounter something of your grace this day,
To hear again your words of forgiveness and hope,
Your messages of love and peace.
May we be inspired to continue our journey of discovery with you.
(Taken from The Vine)
Reflection from 16 January – Inclusive Church
Reading: Matthew 25:31-40
So here we are at our annual Inclusive Church Sunday. We will look at what it means to be an inclusive church and why we still need to make a song and dance about inclusive church. Firstly, let me read to you Christ Church’s mission statement and Inclusive Church’s statement.
Our mission statement is as follows:
‘The purpose of Christ Church is to share the love of God in the heart of Uxbridge by being a worshipping and caring community which accepts people as they are and helps them live life to the full’.
Inclusive Church statement:
“We believe in inclusive church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate.
We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality.
We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”
So, who are we including? These are the named categories, but we should not view them as a tick sheet nor as a complete list. Inclusive church is not just about including gay and other LGBT people. It is much broader. Individual people can be in more than one group. Lack of acceptance of people can also affect the families of the excluded. Some of us here will probably be in one group or another and you may not know that from looking at them, even if you have known them a long time. Most of us are privileged in one sense or another and we are very easy to accept unlike others.
Disability – the deaf, the blind, those in wheelchairs. those with hidden disabilities, which may be a colostomy bag or an injury that is not visible, a condition like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, arthritis. I could go on and on but hopefully you can see where I’m going. It may be temporary or life-long.
Economic power – the wealth you have. This can impact a person on the lower end of the scale in terms of how they are dressed or smell, their educational engagement or how easy it is for them to engage with the life of the church when we put on things that cost money. It may also be an issue at the other end of the scale. Imagine if the Prince of Wales dropped by one Sunday morning. I’m just going to leave that one hanging for you to contemplate.
Ethnicity – the colour of your skin, the thickness of your accent, where you came from and if you look different. It’s demonstrated by the struggle you have to work out if that word you want to use is acceptable to the person standing in front of you. In Hillingdon in 2018 the ethnic split was 53% white, 29.7% Asian, 8.6% black, 4.7% mixed and 3.8% other. Interestingly the borough is also 49.2% Christian, but In 2015 less than 5% of the UK population went to church.
Gender – this is one we can usually all identify with. Female, nonbinary, gender fluid, male and others. Some of you will go “er, what?” at some of those. I certainly did when I was compelled to get my head round them some years ago. While most of us will fit neatly into male or female, which is known as cisgendered, some do not and the science is backing them up. It’s not as simple as one or other. We live in a world where in our lifetime people can now do what others could not just because of their gender, e.g. vote, drive, be a train driver or a midwife and even preach. Some people are still waiting for that equality.
Gender identity – this one can get a bit blurry with gender. In simple terms there are people born with the physical attributes of one gender and the mind of another. Their gender is not what they look like to the outside world. They are often referred to as transgender. Again, the science is with them too, brains that function as male with sexual organs presenting as female, via versa and some other combinations.
A brief diversion into “intersex”. These are people born with mixed physical characteristics of gender. In the past many had surgery as infants to correct this to one of the typical genders only to discover later they perceived themselves as a different gender. A barbaric practice that fortunately in this country is not practiced except for health reasons as they occur. Intersex people can be very prone to certain cancers for instance.
Learning disability – dyslexia and dyspraxia and Downs syndrome and many others. Some are conditions that are genetic differences, others from injury or poisoning and some are just there, reasons yet to be identified (and who decided that a largely spelling condition should be spelt so difficultly!)
Mental health – we all have some experience of poor mental health; we have all experienced a global pandemic and felt the effects on our mental health. For some it’s a genetic disposition that can be traced through the family tree, others a lack of certain chemicals in the brain, for some emotional trauma, for others from substance abuse, others from poison or physical trauma. For some it is more temporary, for others a lifelong battle.
Neurodiversity – i.e. their brain is wired differently. I live in house filled with neurodivergents. Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and others are examples of this in all the breadth of it. From the high functioning neurodivergents that lead multimillion dollar companies to those who struggle to communicate in words or appreciate the dangers of this world.
And finally, the elephant in the room:
Sexuality – most of you before me will be heterosexual cisgendered individuals, i.e. you are attracted in a physical and emotional way to people of the opposite sex and that you are comfortable in the body you were born with. Homosexual is a word meaning to be attracted to a person with the same sexual characteristics as yourself. Again, sexuality is no longer considered a binary thing. Bisexual to be attracted to both men and woman, Pan sexual to be attracted to men, women and other none typical genders. People can be physically attracted in one place and emotionally or romantically attracted in another. People can also be not sexually and /or romantically attracted to anybody known as Asexual or Aromantic. Again, the science is saying this is not a choice made but a biological programming like being left-handed or having blue eyes.
I am humbled to recognise that standing here and facing you, I can see people who have fought for inclusivity, who have experienced being excluded and recognise that we are, as a world, a long way off being truly inclusive but I see a desire to see our corner at Christ Church inclusive.
But why I hear you cry, do we have to make such a song and dance about it? I’m ok if people different to me come to Christ Church. I don’t mind if they have blue hair, if blokes wear dresses, if they stink like a sewer, if boys hold hands or if their skin is a different colour or they speak with an accent I struggle with, if they make noise during the service or go in and out to have a fag or do any manner of things that is a different way to me. ALL are welcome. Yes, I would reply, ALL are welcome here, it’s one of the reasons I am here, but, and here is the rub: THEY DON’T KNOW IT.
Around six years ago when our son was preparing to come out to us, he was really worried about how we would react to his news. He made plans to leave home if things went badly. He was only just in his teens. Somehow in our raising of him, we had not communicated that we would be supportive of him no matter what, and no matter which, or how many of the groups above he was part of. To this day I regret that we had not got that through to him. Not knowing we needed to was not an excuse period.
The minorities in the Inclusive Church’s statement, like my son, have spent years, decades, lifetimes and centuries being told they are not welcome, they are not worth as much, you can’t do that, sit there or wear that, or they are an abhorrence to God, or my personal favourite is ‘you are doing the devil’s work’. That last one was said to a member of my family and referred to me because I supported my kids.
The Christian church and various factions of the church has a history, going back centuries, of not being inclusive. Think of the Crusades. Christians were slave traders and owners. Christians were part of the Ku Klux clan. Homosexuality was illegal in this country in living memory. More black young men are still stopped by police than their white counterparts here, not just in America. Kids with learning difficulties are shushed in churches driving families away. People who don’t smell so good are ushered to the back by the window.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was murdered on the side of a road in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Derek Chauvin, a 44-year-old white police officer. Despite covid lockdowns, people of all colours, all over the world took up the chant that ‘Black Lives Matter’. Some said, ‘but surely all lives matter’ and on one level they are right, but and it’s a big but, black people needed to hear that their lives mattered, some white people needed to be reminded that black lives mattered as much as theirs did, but first and foremost the black community needed to hear it shouted from the streets so it could be a catalyst for change. They needed to feel heard, that the fact that a black person was 3¼ times more likely to be killed by a policeman mattered. Before that we had the MeToo campaign to help women who had been sexually abused to be heard. Before that we have had Wilberforce, Peter Wildeblood, Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers, Martin Luther King and Jesus.
The Jesus, our Jesus, who drank water with the Samaritan woman by the well, dinned with prostitutes and tax collectors and told parables of Samaritans looking after Jews and healed centurions’ families. All of this was radical inclusion in the time of Jesus. In that time the tax collector, prostitute, centurion and the Samaritan needed to know that Jesus was for them too and not just the Jews. In these and many more encounters of Jesus, he was saying, these people are included in my kingdom, these people matter. He was shocking, he was radically inclusive in his time.
So being ‘inclusive’ church regrettably needs to be shouted out, because this is a world where at every corner there is exclusion. Because there are still far too many churches where the smelly and the gay are hidden away, where the blacks are ignored, where women cannot hold roles they were born to fill. It’s not for our benefit, it is for the excluded ones that we are part of Inclusive Church.
I’m going to end on a personal note. You will probably know I’m very pro-LGBTQ+ rights. I’ve tried not to make this all about LGBTQ+ and I hope I succeeded. Most of you know I have a rainbow family as I call them. You need to know that I am very grateful to you for taking me in, not so many years ago. When I arrived, it was a time of great rejection both overtly and passively, and of great personal trauma. Here I found acceptance, love and care. Nowhere else in Uxbridge advertises acceptance of the LGBTQ community or much else in terms of any advertised inclusivity like the membership of Inclusive Church. I’m sure there is acceptance in other local churches but when you don’t know, it’s hard to feel safe. So this is why being part of Inclusive Church is important, it’s not for us, it is for the excluded so that they will know that they will be included and be safe here with us.
Readings for 23 January
Luke 4:14-21 (NIV)
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
- Psalm 19
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
We meet at 11am for our Sunday services, which are also live-streamed on our Facebook page. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them at www.facebook.com/christchurchuxbridge. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch them – our services are publicly viewable. You can also view a recent service on our church website. This week’s service will be led by URC lay preacher, Anne Byfield. You can find the order of service here.
If you are unable to join us in person or online for our Sunday services, but would like to receive a recording of them on a memory stick to watch at home, please let us know.
23 January – Mrs Anne Byfield (URC lay preacher)
30 January – Rev’d Andrew McLuskey (URC minister) – communion service
6 February – Mr Neville Walton (Methodist local preacher)
13 February – Christ Church worship group – parade service
Church charity news
Film afternoon – Saturday 22nd January, 1pm
Our next fundraising activity for this year’s church charity, HALO Children’s Foundation, will be a family film afternoon in the chapel from 1pm on Saturday 22nd January. Popcorn and snacks will be available to enjoy during the film. There is no charge for the event, but if you would like to make a donation to HALO, you can either do so via our online fundraising page (details are below) or give via the collection jar on the day.
Our next coffee morning to raise money for HALO Children’s Foundation will be on Saturday 29th January, 10am-12noon.
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
Praying for other churches
This week we pray for our own church. Please pray that we will be open and receptive to God’s voice leading us into the future as our church enters its 50th year.
God of the infinite, grant us patience to wait
God of the mountains, incite us to work and rest
God of the wilderness, inspire us to act
God of the world, grant us the capacity to be. Amen
(Rev’d Ron Reid, from the URC Daily Devotion for 18th January 2022)