One Sunday in July, at a service at Winterbourne Abbas, we marked ‘Rural Mission Sunday’, the theme of which was ‘Everybody Welcome!’ Rural Mission Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the life of the rural church and is promoted by the Arthur Rank Centre (a Christian organisation that supports ruralministry). The theme of hospitality was chosen long before the seismic national and international events of the last year unfolded but it now seems particularly pertinent.
Rural churches and communities usually are hospitable and welcoming (certainly the four churches and communities of the Valley and Valence are) but this special Sunday helps us to focus on the Christian understanding of hospitality and to reflect on what we are already doing and what more we can do.
Throughout his ministry Jesus showed a bias to the poor and time and again his words showed that a concern for the poor is not just an optional part of discipleship but integral to it; an inescapable challenge to all who would follow him. He does not insist that the help we give others should be in grand gestures but rather in the simple things. Giving a hungry person a meal, a thirsty person a drink, welcoming a stranger or cheering the sick. These are the things anyone can do – simple help to people we meet every day.
I have written before on this page about the extraordinary community spirit I have witnessed in our four villages – people looking after each other in the best way they can. I love the term ‘selfless service’. It is something we should strive to do each day – some small act of selfless service, showing the love of God that is within us, being Christ’s body on earth.
Social isolation is now a real problem for our society as a whole, but the challenges can be even more signi cant in rural areas. Jesus’ challenge to us is to care for others regardless of who they are. The key to providing authentic hospitality is to see Christ in those to whom we offer that hospitality and from whom we receive it. Hospitality is two-way: we learn and receive as well as give.
May God bless us with love.
May the Son walk with us on the journey.
May the Spirit inspire us to welcome those we meet.
(A blessing for Rural Mission Sunday.)
Yours in Christ
Jean Saddington TeamVicar, the Valley and Valence