I have been busy preparing and delivering a workshop on “encountering difference in others and in ourselves.” The audience was a mix of spiritual directors and clergy. I found the subject area deeply illuminating, bringing the gospel alive – focussing on the messiness and holiness of Jesus’ ministry. There was a whiff of the apostolic about the day as people shared a sense of solidarity, witnessing to our great human diversity, celebrating ‘otherness.’

There is a wonderful South African proverb which says, “I am because we are.” In many respects, the rise in awareness of Ubuntu, meaning ‘humanity to others’ is significant in our challenge to embrace otherness and difference. Ubuntu helps us to think of the way in which we can share stories which describe a larger “us” rather than a “them and us.” St Paul was also keen to stress the corporate nature of God’s salvation. In his letter to the Christian community at Colossae, he said, “there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”

Christ’s body is our safe place, our sanctuary of holiness in which we are encouraged, inspired, empowered. Some call this the church, the ekklesia. Martyn Percy comments:

“In the churches that Paul knew, the ekklesia was complex. People gathered – they assembled; in itself, unusual for a religion. In the first churches, we find Jews, Greeks and Romans; slave and free; male and female. All one in Christ. The slaves are marked with tattoos; the children run free; the men and women mix; origin and ethnicity no longer matter, for all are one in Jesus Christ. In this radical new ‘assembly’ of non-citizens, all are equal. Class, race, gender and age are all transcended.” (The Inclusive Church Gathering, 2013)

What a revolutionary, but deeply biblical, way of looking at the church. A place which celebrates difference and otherness. A place in which I want to belong.

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Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.