This week at Kempston East, we will be having a slightly different but very special and meaningful service, as we learn and celebrate the diversity in our church family. It is important to do this as it is an opportunity to understand the history, culture and background of our members. Our diversity enriches our community and church. It is what makes Kempston East unique and special to us. We should celebrate the differences that we have because they are the work of our Father in heaven. God created us as a diverse people and that should be treasured and celebrated.
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. In the same way, we can also recognise what we have in common and what connects us. Over the 117 years that Kempston East Methodist Church has existed, there have been many different members who have lived locally, moved from the far corners of the UK and many further than that. We all have different backgrounds, cultures and interests; but there are many things we have in common, with the main connection being our faith. Our church family has continued to evolve to what it is today, and it is something that we are proud of.
You may be aware that the month of October is Black History Month, and ultimately, it was created as a festival of celebration. This service will be part of our way of marking this and celebrating our church family in its fullness. The Black Lives Matter protests around the world sparked a commitment among many individuals and organisations to educate themselves about Black history, heritage and culture – as part of understanding racism and standing in solidarity against it. Whilst the protests raised awareness of the issues and opened up progressive discourse on the matter, the main theme and focus of Black History Month is celebrating heritage and diversity. This year in particular, we collectively want to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture – in their own way and in their own words. This is similar to what we are hoping to share with you all this Sunday at Kempston East, with several church members talking about their heritage and background.
Another theme for our service is Christians around the world – highlighting that our faith is something that connects us to millions of people across the world, not just in Kempston. We are also hoping to show a short video from our friends in Uganda who are part of the organisation, GAAF. In 2018, our Church charity was GAAF (Gideon’s Anti Aid Foundation) who are based in the community of Bombo just north of the capital Kampala, Uganda. The charity supports children who live and are cared for at the site, and are taught in their school. The charity also supports the local community, with crops that they grow and animals they rear. We were pleased to have Fred (one of the first children who was supported by GAAF) and Victoria to stay with us in December 2017. They also came to Kempston East to speak to us about GAAF and the work they do in the community. From this, they are also indirectly part of our church and wider church family. We continue to stay in touch with them and hope that one day we can go to visit them in Uganda.
The themes of diversity and Christians around the world remind me of the song ‘We are the Church’:
I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we're the church together!
It also says that the church is not a building, but a people. We have learnt this over the last couple of years, with the church coming to our living rooms via Zoom and through this newsletter. The work of Kempston East is not limited to the church building and is something that reaches many people, both near and far. We have all had our part to play in enabling this to happen and to continue the good work of this church. The book of Corinthians in Bible specifically highlights that we are collectively the body of Christ and individually make up the different parts.
"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many." - 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
It is important to remember this and that no matter who we are, we are all a part of this church. It is our differences and diversity that makes Kempston East unique and special. But ultimately, as we celebrate and learn more about church family and community this week, it is amazing to think that the main constant that connects us is God and his love for us.