On Tuesday morning I attended the Ecumenical Service commemorating the commencement of Parliament for 2020. I also decided to stay afterwards for “morning tea”. (More like breakfast seeing the service finished at 8.15am!) Apart from my desire for my first coffee of the day, I thought it would be a good opportunity, being a relative newcomer to Canberra, to continue mingling and networking. But after getting my coffee, I then stood around on my own for what seemed like ages while people I didn’t know chatted in small clusters around the hall.
I’m pretty sure all of you will have had a similar experience at some stage – whether at a party, conference, club or a church you were visiting. That feeling of exclusion, even if only brief and temporary, can be quite unnerving, eh. We all like to fit in. I was eventually rescued by a woman of significant standing (I won’t namedrop), who not only noticed my plight but went out of her way to approach me and talk with me.
That simple, almost mundane experience reminded me of the importance of being inclusive and caring. Many churches claim that they are and may even declare the same in their statements on mission or values but fail to translate their good intentions into actions. That is tragic because inclusion and care are crucial building blocks of community and community is obviously essential for communities of faith.
In my reading during the week, I came across some helpful online material on inclusion from the Diversity Council of Australia, including the following.
“Inclusion refers to getting the mix of people in an organisation to work together to improve performance and wellbeing. Inclusion in a workplace is achieved when a diversity of people (e.g., ages, cultural backgrounds, genders, perspectives) feel that they are:
RESPECTED for who they are and able to be themselves;
CONNECTED to their colleagues and feel they belong;
CONTRIBUTING their perspectives and talents to the workplace; and
PROGRESSING in their career at work (i.e. have equal access to opportunities and resources)”
The focus here is on inclusion in the workplace, which will be relevant to many of you. But I think the general principles also apply to volunteers and members in a church context. For respected, read loved; connected is about body life and fellowship; contributing involves recognition and use of spiritual gifts; progressing includes growth in Christian maturity.
Today’s sermon is about building an inclusive, caring community, which is the second of our three church goals. Each of us has a vital role to fulfil in that building process under the Master Builder’s authority and the Spirit’s leadership.