Minister at All Souls church on Elmwood Avenue

SOUTH Belfast is a good place to be, it has an exciting social and racial mix than most other parts of our city.  There is, hopefully, a growing sense of one community, what I call an inclusive community.

In our church, All Souls, we like to believe we are building an inclusive community. What we like to call our Beloved Community. It is a modest project in one Church, learning to care for each other irrespective of difference. All Souls is an inclusive church. We welcome people irrespective of race, creed, colour, gender or sexual orientation and we invite them to play a role in all aspects of our church life including ministry.

It is my opinion that we over emphasis the denominational differences between us, which I believe is a mistake. Sometimes those in church authority or   prominent positions in our community focus on cultural and theological differences and their desire to maintain demarcation in worship and in our children’s education. But the more I share time with others of different denominations the more I find there is very little that divides us.  When we worship, praise and sing together difference disappears and we are one in spirit.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to give an address in the Central Mosque London; I spoke on the need to understand if not to agree. Members of the Islamic community in the Mosque shared with me their desire to help in creating a sense of an inclusive community based on a better understanding of each other; that we should listen carefully to what others are saying rather than responding to what we assume they have said. To understand does not mean to accept other’s beliefs but to understand why they hold them.

My hope for the New Year is that we could hopefully build one community in Belfast, in Northern Ireland – A Beloved Community.  Seeing difference not as separation but to be celebrated and shared.  It is a big ask but one worth working towards.

Have a peaceful and inclusive new year.