“ . . . each of us was given grace . . .”
An indigenous Anglican lay woman (of the global south!)
reflects on ‘inclusivity and grace’.
An indigenous Anglican lay woman (of the global south!)
reflects on ‘inclusivity and grace’.
My sisters and brothers, your kindness and your trust in me are profoundly humbling. Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you. Yesterday I was speaking in Seoul, this morning I was in Hong Kong and now here I am on the other side of the world. Thanks be to God for the twin miracles of jet air-travel and the at times fabulously convenient international dateline which in theory allows us to be literally able to either get ahead of ourselves or indeed to go backwards in time, albeit very briefly!
I acknowledge that we have all traveled from somewhere to be here and that for some of you the work of organizing for our time together began many many months ago – to all those on the organizing committee - we are all indebted to you for your sacrifice, your tenacity, your abundant hospitality and your magnificent vision.
Hopefully this evening I can provide something of a foundational piece upon which we as a gathering of God’s good people might build upon with bold new imagining and with confidently renewed pride as we endeavour anew to be evermore grace-filled global Anglicans!
Friends as I have indicated I want to talk about four things. Firstly, allow me to lay out for you something of an indigenous perspective on ‘inclusivity’, or unconditional belonging. I believe indigenous peoples have at this particular time in our common life a precious contribution to make to our collective capacity to achieve and to maintain the state of relational grace to which we are all called.
Secondly I want to affirm and celebrate the extraordinary work of mission and ministry being done across our beloved Communion in God’s name by those so irrefutably ‘drenched in grace’ in spite of the prevailing tensions.
Thirdly I want to register my own struggle to reconcile a deep and abiding outrage at the way in which the life and death struggles of so many, especially those of women and children continue to be so cruelly compromised by the determinations of those church leaders who continue to place their own personal sexual discomfort above the horrific struggles for life itself among those who are the least among us.
Finally I want to encourage us all to recognize that times such as these we are all endeavouring to live through, are always times for humbly reminding ourselves that it is indeed only by God’s grace and compassion that we are able to discern best ways forward.
We have to be, both wise and bold, prophetic and yet intentional, courageous and yet always gently so. To each of us has indeed a measure of God’s grace been given – sufficient for us to make a difference, sufficient for us to fulfill the call upon each and every one of us to love as we are loved, to do for others that which we would wish for ourselves, to be truly as sisters and brothers in all things for all time.
Just a minor note of ‘warning’! I had originally intended to exegete the Ephesians text in order to weave a ‘credible’ theological theme through this paper. It is what we theologians foolishly imagine we must always do in order to justify our credentials! But somehow as I began to reflect on so much of my recent experience at the international level of the Anglican Communion, I have to confess that more and more I am questioning the way in which scripture is being used to score points instead of being used as a pointer toward the Christ we seek to follow and therefore toward the lives of grace and peace we are called to emulate.
I could so easily have used good and possibly even impressive theological discourse to justify my employment of Paul’s words but instead I have chosen with humility to simply open my heart to you all and to share with you deeply and passionately what it is that I believe we might each find reason to ponder afresh – away from the immediacy of intensely fractious meetings, away from the appalling onslaught of blogs and vitriolic web postings purporting to give us all the latest gossip, the latest blunders, the latest outrageous moves by all the major players, the latest one upmanship (and Lord only knows friends, it is the men is it not?).
We have I think entirely understandably, but possibly now quite unhelpfully, all allowed ourselves to be unduly affected, overwhelmed really by the volume and intensity of all the claims and counter claims, the strikes and counter strikes of global Anglican politics.
This gathering called so evocatively and I think prophetically, ‘drenched in grace’ is our chance to reclaim the grace given to each one of us and to see our responsibility as one of being as readily deserving of that grace as we possibly can be by choosing to live lives slightly less distracted by the current political clamour among church leaders for attention and instead to be more instinctively attuned to the spiritual clamour among God’s people, for mercy, for compassion, for healing and for love.
I am in all humility speaking as much to myself as I am with you all – I confess also that as a result of all I have done in the last week or so I totally rewrote my script by way of being as open and as vulnerable as I have felt compelled to be.
Well firstly and with profound respect, and by way of introducing the first part of my paper, let me share a little more of the indigenous sister that I am and the indigenous proposal I want to share with you.
I know you have a little biographical detail available but that really tells you more of what I do not so much of who I am and isn’t it after all who we are and how we are with and for one another in Christ which enables us to achieve and to maintain that necessarily transcendent state of grace – transcendent of all of the differences that do not ultimately matter and which constantly keep us reaching out for rather than reaching out with God’s grace.
More and more as I move about the Communion I recognize that our intimacy with one another is suffering, our deep and abiding sense of mutual love and affection for one another is being compromised, eroded, side-lined as we focus more and more on power plays than on our love in Christ for one another.
I have spoken before on many occasions about the blessed wisdom of the indigenous elders whose teachings of faith, whose abiding love and laughter has been the refuge to which I have returned time and again as I have found myself called upon to speak, to teach, to pray and to struggle with what at times appear as insurmountable challenges to our faith and witness in our times.
No matter where in the world I find myself, and especially in the most testing of moments I am continuously drawn back to their very simple ways, their very humble teachings and to the abiding sense of tradition, which their very presence alone always conveys. Our elders are precious beyond measure and it seemed to me that the most precious gift I could in turn offer to us all this evening is something of that which I have for my lifetime been so incalculably privileged to receive.
I raise the issue of personal or intimate knowing of and about one another, because certainly for indigenous peoples, what is of paramount importance to establishing and maintaining the sacred basis of relationality with all in God’s creation, is having the humility, compassion, grace and wisdom, and above all else, the instinctive spiritual yearning to continuously seek to do so no matter the efforts external or internal, to destroy or undermine.
Let me offer you just one example of how this ‘instinct toward relationality’ works in my own cultural context. In the Maori community, within which I am primarily located, when strangers encounter one another, the proper words of enquiry are always ‘ko wai koe’ or, ‘who are you, (in relation to others), not simply, who are you the individual before me?
The proper retort is always to name the ancestral ones from whom you are descended. So in my case I would always say ‘ko ahau te mokopuna a Ephraim’ or I am the granddaughter of Ephraim, (who everyone in the entire Maori community knew as a deeply respected tribal elder from the northern coastal village of Ahipara, and who was married to Hariata of the Okena family from the next valley over).
That minimal six-word response of mine actually provided an extraordinary amount of critical location and status information to the enquirer. So for example, without me actually speaking the details my enquirer would now know, I was from the tribe known as Te Rarawa (because Te Rarawa people are from the geographical area within which Ahipara is located), they would have in their mind a picture of the village located at the bottom end of a glorious golden sandy beach known as Ninety Mile Beach, they would recall the tribal name Te Rarawa with all the particular history of formation, struggle and ways of surviving attaching to those people, they would know that I was most likely to be an Anglican (because Ahipara and the people of Te Rarawa were among the first indigenous Maori to welcome, shelter and nurture CMS missionaries), they would know that I was the child of one of Ephraim and Hariata’s sixteen children, they would know that because of my tribal affiliations that I belonged to the traditional marae or the village meeting house known as Nga Ohaki, the place of standing and of acknowledging the chiefly status of my grandfather.
They would know that I would most likely vote Labour, in sympathy with the long established preferred political tradition toward left-leaning liberalism in the far north region. They would know that I must therefore be related to this person and that person also from the same tribe, that I was from both a fishing and farming community and so on it would go.
From one single line enquiry about who I am, and from my single line response referring to the appropriate ancestor, suddenly almost the entire communion of saints from one small rural tribal community is revealed.
All of this in the simplest of human encounters, which thus establishes, affirms, protects and celebrates relationality. So my enquirer would now know how, why and where they stood in relationship with me because of my relationships with so many others and the same would then occur in reverse. Reciprocity and inclusivity are utterly characteristic of all indigenous encounters. It is our ‘business’ to know who is in the village at all times.
Conversely if we take the non-indigenous approach then should we encounter one another as strangers and you should ask me ‘ko wai koe’, or who are you, then I might tell you my name is Jenny Te Paa, I live in Auckland and I work at St John’s College. Here all you get is the disconnected data telling you I am an individual person with a name who lives somewhere and works somewhere – a bit like the bio detail you have before you.
Here in this exchange there is nothing culturally prescribed which details broader connections, about family links, about critical formative history, about likely social, political, economic or spiritual influences, all of which are inevitably determinative of so much in all of our lives.
The non-indigenous encounter is instead primarily prescribed by the prior importance attaching to individual achievement (we are somehow the sum total almost of our professional roles) and preferably includes reference to or evidence of significant material acquisition resulting in elevated economic status (we are someone because of our professional role or because of where we live). Such is the way of much of the modern world.
Now I know I generalize very uncritically, but I also know many of you can recognize what it is that I am driving at here because on so many occasions as I encounter friends across the Communion, I am told how envious many in the first world are of those of us in the fourth world who still enjoy the incalculably precious gift of knowing and living within extraordinarily intimate, inclusive albeit at times confusingly and maddeningly complex intergenerational tribally based family and wider kinship networks. This system while far from perfect and seriously under threat nevertheless has I believe, much to commend it in the present circumstance.
I have also noticed especially in the first world churches that this sense of personal disconnection from one another has had an especially deleterious effect. I see in inclusive churches a profoundly loving effort to recapture some of that intimacy, that deeper sense of unconditional belonging to one another. What we must always guard against however is the tendency to become insular and self-serving – the ultimate purpose of our relationality with one another has surely to be our enhanced capacity to be Christlike in our relationality, especially with those who are as strangers to us.
I raise this issue of ‘right relationality’ because it to be one of the things in the cultural practices, somewhat unique but not entirely exclusive to indigenous peoples, which I consider utterly worthy of exploring further with a view to enhancing our shared common life. This is especially so in the case of those practices, which define, protect, enhance and nurture quality relationships between and among the people. For it is these encounters among and between ourselves as God’s peoples which are indeed precious acts of grace, acts of tenderness, of familiarity, of intimacy and of embrace – we surely cannot have too many of these, we surely cannot become too ‘drenched’ in the warmth and tenderness of right relationality?
As the global Anglican Communion now seeks so desperately and with such urgency to identify ways of re-storing, re-newing, re-conciling itself from within, then I figure surely it is not entirely inconceivable that a measure of salvific wisdom might just emerge from within the indigenous remnants.
Indigenous Anglicans are those who have historically and in some cases, still are positioned firmly and powerlessly, on the underside of ‘mainstream’ Anglicanism, And yet in spite of this irrefutable and not insignificant experience of historic institutional injustice there nevertheless remains a sizeable community of the faithful within whom resides a good measure of wisdom and insight which is just begging to be offered into the current debates.
Many of you would appreciate that many indigenous Anglicans have over the years of suffering since our respective experiences of colonization, had many reasons to wonder about the possibility of God’s absence from our lives. However instead of ever doubting God, the majority of us have consistently in faith and trust and love, learned to cry out of new depths for mercy, for kindness and for God’s justice to someday prevail for all and not just for some, even as we simultaneously commit ourselves to the project of integration and of actively seeking for mutuality and interdependence within those communities, societies, nations where we now live.
The words of Bruggemann are indicative, ‘What we make of pain is perhaps the most telling factor for the question of life and the nature of our faith.’
It seems utterly appropriate therefore that at this time that what we indigenous Anglicans might make of our pain, is to see through it into the suffering of others and to wonder if there isn’t a word of solace, a gesture of comfort, a touch of love we could offer up out of our own experience.
My point in focusing upon the issue of indigenous relationality is one such gesture. It occurs to me that it is time indigenous Anglicans found our voices not simply of grievance but preferably now of gift and of generosity – we are after all peoples of various lands, immensely proud and fiercely protective of our traditions.
We are above all else still to a significant degree, peoples of unequivocal faith. A measure of the authenticity of the sum total of all of that, must however surely be our willingness to act in trust with faith together with all our sisters and brothers in Christ in order to build up the kingdom.
We can and I believe we must therefore indicate our willingness to offer forth something of the gifts of grace entrusted to us ultimately not for ourselves alone but rather for the benefit of all in God’s creation.
Our instinct for inclusive relationality is one such ‘gift’. As I have explained, according to our tribal tradition, everyone in an indigenous tribal village belongs, everyone is included in everything. Belonging carries with it an inherent responsibility for the wellbeing of one another. There is therefore both a sense of familial connection and of moral duty in the form of reciprocity implicit in the tradition of indigenous relationality.
The Churches in my own tribal community historically reinforced this view by their own laudable attitudes and practices of cooperation, mutuality and interdependence. At any significant community event all of the church leaders would be present, each contributing significantly, each respecting the other publicly. It was in this way that I grew up believing that loving, mutually respectful, generous hearted relationality between and among ourselves as God’s people was indeed the place of deep and abiding grace.
There was no exclusionary consciousness, not even subliminal, there was no formalized process for excluding anyone from the affairs of the tribe, the church, or from the village itself for any reason. Bad behaviour (and there was plenty of it!) was certainly punished either through the regular law and order forces of the state or by various culturally sanctioned practices intended to moderate if not transform bad behaviour. While some were indeed physically removed from the community through these processes they were never spiritually nor emotionally disconnected from their place of standing, their place of belonging.
In my fifty plus years of being a child of Ahipara, I know of no one who was ever cast outside of this kinship structure. As far as I am aware you simply cannot be excluded. If you were connected by relationship then you belonged pure and simple! In this way it didn’t matter if you were good or bad, tall or short, gay or straight, ugly or pretty, young or old, honest or not, rich or poor. If you could connect yourself through the ancestors into any generation then you belonged and had rights of access to the communal places and the assets of the tribe.
Many indigenous Anglicans thus still live out on a daily basis a beautiful and inclusive cultural practice which I believe to be irrefutably, ‘drenched in grace’ – and yet even as I say this, I reiterate that the fullest measure of this can surely only be rendered in our willingness to give away something of this precious tradition albeit from a place of significant deficit.
I acknowledge we do not have the worldwide franchise on the kinship practices I am describing here but certainly I know from experience that we are one of the few distinct population groups who have been more than vigilant in preserving its practice.
I acknowledge also that within our communities there is much in the contemporary circumstance to be decried. However, on balance, I remain convinced that there is indeed a cultural treasure available to us all in the form of the best indigenous practice of right relationality. I believe with appropriate adaptation it could only serve to benefit especially those whose lives are to the largest extent bereft of intense and deeply reassuring human intimacy.
Let me move now away from the specificity of indigenous context into the more expansive realm of human encounter. What has in the past exasperated me beyond measure in the current tensions is the extent to which I believed the quietly faithfilled devotional work being undertaken unquestioningly, without fuss, day in and out, year in and out by thousands of ‘ordinary’ faith filled Anglicans, particularly Anglican women, continues to be placed at such risk of being unduly and unjustly compromised as more and more church leaders are distracted by the bitterly divisive politics of exclusion.
As I have been especially privileged to move across the entire Anglican Communion in recent years I have been ever conscious of the ways in which the current tensions have and are still manifesting themselves often in relentlessly bizarre ways. I still struggle against an increasing despondency about just how pervasive the reach of enmity among us has become.
And yet of recent months I have received more and more of the sage advice of elders and of those at the frontline of the most difficult of hands on pastoral care work. It is they who are beginning to insist, to those of us who would listen to their pleas, that it is imperative for us all to look beyond the vitriole, the hysteria, the noisy gongs and instead to notice anew all that has actually remained constant, to notice anew all those whose dedication, sacrifice, service and commitment to God’s mission has not altered and will not ever be altered one tiny bit no matter how many threats, claims and abuses are being made at the level of male church leadership struggles.
I have therefore been encouraged to look again at the exemplary work and witness of many thousands of unsung Anglican men and women, young and old, those whose lives of selfless mostly voluntary service, will not and cannot ever be disrupted by the prospect of schism, by legal claims and counter claims or by indecently ferocious doctrinal arguments.
I am being reminded that none of these things can possibly disrupt or compromise lives given over freely, unquestioningly to the care of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the release of the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind.
I am being reminded of those who are variously described as ‘low-key’ clergy, those who are not necessarily involved in high powered Diocesan committee’s or General Synod affairs but who are instead deeply, inextricably involved in every single aspect of God’s mission and ministry in their local communities, I am speaking of the Sunday School teachers, of all the children of our Church, of the youth group leaders, the cake bakers, the brass cleaners, the altar cloth embroiderers, the builders, the vergers, the gardeners, the chairs of vestries, the parish treasurers, the flower arrangers, the cathedral friends, the social service agency workers, the women’s guilds and committee’s.
I am speaking of those who volunteer to do anything at the ring of the church bell but who are either; totally unaware of the current tensions or are totally perplexed by them. But I think I am speaking more and with profound admiration of those who are actually teaching us all through their prior unshakeable commitment to ‘good works’, that their way of demonstrating an appropriate and yet dignified disdain for those calling and acting for disunity, is not to confront, nor to disparage but rather to continuously exemplify grace filled, charitable and quietly patient servanthood behaviour.
I am reminded here of Volf, that it is only in our demonstrable capacity and willingness to let go of outrage, of our despair and of our determinations to hold on to memories of wrongdoing that we in fact act with grace. Yet he says, this is never an uncritical action – it must be governed by the logic of grace which is to do with first finding our proper selves in God who is love. There and only there can we fully flourish by what God’s love does in and through us – we cannot help but exercise our God given capacity for forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation, for life-giving acts of grace.
We become capable as Luther suggests, ‘of living in Christ thru faith and in our neighbour thru love. By faith we are caught up beyond ourselves to God. By love we descend beneath ourselves into our neighbours. Yet we remain always in God in God’s love’.
It is in this way that I begun to think more of those in my own life whose Christian witness is characterized by humble, tireless and selfless devotion, abundant compassion, endless sacrifice and unbounded service to the Church. I can see the faces and say the names of those from whom I have inherited my own love of the Church. Those whose voices raised in song and in chanted prayer formed my own spirituality and shaped my faith commitment; those whose laughter and lessons still resonate deep within me, whose own faith example has inspired my own witness in God’s world, those who cautioned me to be as political as I liked but to never forget how to pray, those who unquestioningly urged me to assume positions of leadership even as they insisted I never forget how to be humble.
I am not alone – I know you too can recall the faces, the names from whom you also inherited the gift of your faith. I accept that now is indeed the time for us all to recognize that to each of these faith filled witnesses was given grace and from each of them we have in turn been gifted with the same measure – our recognition of that and our response to it, is surely indicative of whether or not we have in turn been drenched or merely sprinkled with grace.
I accept that my undue preoccupation with the presenting tensions has rendered me somewhat ‘blinded’ to the cloud of witnesses whose example is ever before us and whose example must never be diminished, overlooked, even as issues such as those before us all, threaten to overwhelm.
It is not to suggest that those of us involved at the frontier of struggle against the so called ‘schismatics’ are acting incorrectly or even single-mindedly, nor is it to suggest that there is an either or approach to mission and ministry on one hand and ecclesial activism on the other.
What I am endeavouring to point us toward is that I am hearing and seeing from among those perhaps not so intently involved in the contemporary political struggles of our church something of a plaintive cry for more of that presence upon which their work indeed all of our work, of discipleship and witness is ultimately dependent and that is a portion of the undistracted grace filled presence of those appointed to lead, to teach and to exercise pastoral leadership.
I am hearing more and more from my students, from women in the church, from lay people, from clergy not only their angst about how distracted the entire Church is becoming from the pressing issues of mission and ministry but also about how unduly distracted many good people in church leadership are also becoming by the immediacy of demand for reaction and for defensive response.
I hear a cry for reconsideration of what may well be an understandable, but increasingly uncritical priority being given over to reaction rather than to contemplation, to defensiveness rather than to exemplary and confident ministry presence.
My friends let me shift gear ever so slightly. I have now been a member of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network for nearly 12 years and have been Convenor for the last six or so. During my time in the Network I have been privileged beyond measure to experience sites of ongoing human suffering as a result of war most notably Palestine and Sri Lanka, and places still struggling to reconcile the aftermath of wanton, random murderous human aggression – Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, North and South Korea, South Africa.
The most compelling images I have of all of the exposures I have, are the faces of women and children especially among the millions of innocent widows and orphans that war, any armed conflict inevitably produces.
In Sri Lanka I met with women survivors of the relentless civil war in that most extraordinarily beautiful of lands. Women whose children have been drafted as child soldiers, women who can make no sense of the brutality which ethnic conflict inevitably engenders. In Israel and Palestine mothers daily, hourly weep for loved ones lost to crazed suicidal ideology, lost to vicious religious hatred, thousands of children traumatized by the constancy of war in their playgrounds of life.
In Kenya, Masai women whose lives are prescribed within the life denying limitations of cultural dictates, whose children live lives prescribed by the ever present threats of malaria, preventable disease and grinding poverty. In September I met with women survivors of the Kigali genocide and as our eyes met and as we embraced in the spirit of shared unspeakable grief about terror, about slaughter, about rape, about incomprehensible horror, I wept silently in rage and confusion at how on earth there could possibly be a more pressing or urgent agenda for us all as Church to be addressing.
This last week I saw and heard of the plight of women and children in North Korea – we were unable to speak with any, unable to get close enough to see and yet even at a distance it was obvious – no electricity, no running water, no fuel, no heating, no freedom to think, to speak, to run free.
Oh I know I am not telling you anything new – we all know there is unprecedented suffering all over God’s world. We all know therefore there is more than enough to keep everyone of us preoccupied for the rest of our lives and yet we Anglicans continue to fuss and we fret and we fight.
Allow me if you will to share with you that just this week as I pondered not only Korea but so much of what I have done and seen and heard this entire year, once again in a moment of contemplative reflection instead of the indignant rage I have been so bothered with of late, I was reminded to see instead the faces of the many ‘ordinary’ faith filled Anglicans both victims and care-givers who are simply preoccupied with the day to day struggles to either save or to heal broken lives.
God only knows how much we all owe to those involved in the provision of aid to the victims of war – to those working with women and young girls to save or to counsel them from the unspeakable trauma of wanton sexual violence, to those working to provide basic supplies of food, medicine, clothing; to those endeavouring often against all odds to assist in rebuilding shattered lives.
These are our exemplars of God’s mission and ministry, these are our sisters and brothers, so utterly drenched in God’s grace, who have since time immemorial given absolute unquestioned priority to the day to day struggles of too many to simply stay alive, to stay safe, to survive famine, war, sexual violence, disease. I wondered what they would have me say at times like this? What would they say if they were here this evening?
I can’t help myself when I want so much to cry out in rage, about anyone who dares to ‘fuss’ about who is worthy of participation in the orders and offices of the Church while so many in our shared family are suffering and dying needlessly. I want to rage on about what a travesty of faith this kind of attitude and behaviour represents, about what an abuse of the gift of God’s grace all of this is and then I am reminded that the more I focus upon blaming and judging, anticipating and reacting the less I am present and able instead to develop what Thomas Cahill describes as the narratives of grace, ‘the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by the circumstance.’
And this I realize is what being ‘drenched in grace’ is calling me into – is calling us all into. We are being challenged to find within ourselves renewed appreciation of all that is good and true and kind, of all that is life-giving and life-sustaining, of all that is merciful and humbling.
We are I believe being challenged in the current circumstance not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew the very good behaviour of the many whose exemplary regard for the sacredness of all others whom God has created points us all toward that way in which God would probably say that grace is to be truly expressed.
This is not to say we ignore the political struggles swirling all around us, not for a moment, but rather it is to say we need to pause and to consider whether or not our approach to these matters is primarily one of self-righteous admonition or one of transcendent grace?
If it is true that our new identity in Christ is one utterly transformative of our relationships with one another then it follows that to the largest extent our speaking and our behaving must also be radically reinscribed firstly in our hearts and then and only then, in our minds.
Transcendent grace enables us to hold both to the necessary project of pursuing God’s justice in the face of any and all injustice even as it simultaneously enables us to participate in the immediate and desparately urgent pastoral work of healing and of reconciling.
And so my sisters and brothers what is it that we are to do? Are we to continue to draw our lines in the shifting sands of ecclesial aggression and blaming, of accusing and judging? Or are we to shift our emphasis to embrace simultaneously and in sufficient measure, grace filled mutual affection and uplift of one another, together with boldly reconciling behaviour? Can we exemplify the very best of God’s grace even as we continue to name decisively and to act boldly and courageously against all of those things, which we know to be unacceptable in God’s sight? Can we stand more confidently together as members of the family of Christ, on the common ground of God’s world, on the basis of a newly apprehended indigenous model of unconditionally inclusive relationality?
Can we do all of this as people connected as adversaries and as friends, across the villages, towns, cities and nations into which we are blessed to be born – a people who know and are known by the ancestors; who know the rivers and lakes and mountains which shelter and nurture us all; a people committed to the full participation and flourishing of all in God’s world; a people unafraid of simplicity or of suffering, a people instinctively attuned to heartfelt wisdom, to forgiveness, to unconditional belonging, to God’s grace and peace with and for us all? I am confident that we will, we can and we must . . . in Christ’s name. Amen.