Theology of the marginalised and Jesus’ love of people on the edge is a large slice of the missiology pie. It’s not news to us that Jesus cared for the forgotten and the ostracised, we just have to read the gospels to discover this. Then why is it that I find more and more people saying church isn’t for me because I’m neurodivergent, because I don’t feel safe to discuss or explore these sexuality issues I’m dealing with, because I don’t see the church loving those with less, because …. because… because…
When I’m with pioneers I see a diverse group of people taking the time to love their neighbours in all their diversity. Wild church loves families who need to run around and laugh to learn, it creates a space that loves those children who are neurodivergent or have mental health issues and need the freedom of the outdoors to draw close to God. Dementia church communities create a similar and just as vital space for the elderly. Spaces that strip liturgical words out and enable people to engage with all their senses are welcoming to creatives who need more than words. Pioneering communities focusing their energy on community groceries right when food poverty is rife, are loving and serving those who society has cast out. Church communities gathering for food and prayer in each other’s homes, are creating a safe space for love and connection when British society is so private. Pioneers who are missionally listening, valuing their communities and taking the time out to really understand those who have not been understood before. There are so many more examples. Pioneers, you are beautiful. Churches engaging in this missional work, you are beautiful.
At a time when the world is swinging towards the far right, wars are continuing to occur and the marginalised get even more marginalised, the Spirit’s impulse to love those who society forgets is even more important. We need to be asking the questions: Who has society left out? How can we walk alongside them, hear their stories and be a Church that genuinely welcomes all? Where do we need to lay down our expectations and our privileges to enable others to be included? We have an opportunity in this divided world to be the people who keep loving in the chaos, who keep choosing Jesus and his way.
But this comes at a cost. When Jesus went to Zaccheus’ home, he was judged for his actions, when Jesus sat at the well and asked for a drink from a Samaritan woman his disciples were surprised, and when Jesus preached the good news in the temple some were amazed and some were offended. In the end it cost him his life. At the moment, in the UK, it shouldn’t cost us our life, it may cost us our reputation, it may cost us relationships when we challenge societies norms, and it may cost us pain when we are judged. This was the life of Jesus, so what are we waiting for?
Are we willing to be genuinely shaped through loving each other? Are we willing to respond to the statement “I don’t feel able to discuss my sexuality” with humility, creating an environment where people are genuinely valued and able to be honest. Are we willing to take the time to understand neurodiversity, adapt our worship, discipleship, and mission to love and genuinely welcome. Are we willing to walk with those who have less than ourselves, letting them shape our hearts, our actions, and the culture of our Church? What are we waiting for? Let’s be beautiful.
Jo Allen Director: South West