Over the past few months, a project I’ve been working on for years has suddenly begun to emerge into the real world. It’s called the Astonishing Community, writes Rev Lynsay Downs (St James the Less Church, Penicuik).
The Astonishing Community seeks to include those who would not otherwise attend church but are drawn to living the life Jesus Christ calls us to, as well as regular churchgoers looking for a way to deepen their engagement with their faith.
At different times and in different parts of the church people’s idiosyncrasies have been allowed to show God’s purpose for the world. Christians have recognised God at work in the vulnerabilities of some and the strength of others. In an age running after idols of progress, wealth and perfection, this community will take the time to notice the Holy fools, the people whose lives astonish us whether we are born with typically functioning brains and without noticeable physical difficulties or mental health issues or with all these weird and wonderful blessings.
A side affect of concentrating on the astonishing in these months when natural disaster, war and violence have flooded our news-streams is, that I have begun to see astonishing people and communities right here in Penicuik. Some have been quietly working away providing food through food banks for years now. Others have supported a hospital in Chitambo or a variety of projects more widely through Africa. The Storehouse has begun its community meals in St JtL’s hall, whilst completing work on their own premises, and I have been astonished by the variety of people cooking and eating there over the summer, sharing their stories, time and care.
I’ve chosen to draw your attention to these astonishing things this harvest time, because I think it is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormous needs of our worldIf you are willing to be astonished all over the world, in the face of every horror, there is a harvest of compassion. People respond again and again to ease suffering and to help rebuild lives. So take time to notice whose smile picks you up, who inspires you and where you are pulled to offer your compassion – chances are you’re astonishing too.