On Monday May 15th we had our Bible Study at our home. We continued our discussions on the theme of receiving Christ in the stranger and the needy. We were encouraged to read a comment from Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) philosopher and essayist: ‘If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.’ We were asked if we are ever reluctant to declare your membership of the church for fear of attracting personal animosity. No-one in our group was reluctant to declare our membership of the church or share the fact we were Christians if we were challenged. We read Amos 5.21-24 and recognised that however fine our Sunday worship would be of no worth if our lives through the rest of the week were not a true reflection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We were also asked whether we would allow members of a local mosque the freedom to worship in our chapel if their mosque was being renovated. I did not feel there would be a problem but it would have to be decided by our local church council. We do not at present have a mosque in town, although there are a group of Muslims who are considering the use of a local building as a mosque in Harrogate; at present Muslims have to travel to Leeds to worship and pray.
Revd Dr Ken Howcroft a former President of the Methodist Conference told us of a moving reaction by Muslims after a terrible massacre of Christians in Pakistan. In a number of Pakistani cities Muslims came and stood round Christian churches holding hands, to let their Christian brothers and sisters go in to worship and to protect them. Ken thought it would be a good idea if Christians did something similar here if mosques come under attack in some of our cities. He knows of a few churches which send their Muslim brothers and sisters, and people of other faiths, greeting cards at times of major festivals. When I was a teacher in a Bradford school in the 90’s my Muslim pupils always brought me Christmas cards, which I found very thoughtful. I should have responded by getting cards to celebrate Eid and also for Hindu and Sikh festivals, although I was more used to the Muslim time of celebration following their challenging fast of Ramadan.
Professor Keith Ward says; ‘If the Church welcomes sinners, you’re going to get quite a lot of sinners in church.’ We were asked to think of the church as a spiritual outpatients’ department in a hospital for the morally sick and whether we were comfortable with that image. I think that such a picture is accurate; we are all sinners who have been forgiven but are continually in need of repentance and forgiveness.
We read Hebrews 13.1-3 which talks of giving hospitality to the stranger. Refugees dominate the news but Britain admits very few, preferring to donate money. We were asked if we had ever considered welcoming an immigrant into our homes. My husband and I had considered offering a home to a refugee, but not many were accepted in Harrogate. However although we had wanted to offer accommodation my beloved has been battling more with his chronic illness of ME and is often in pain. Now added to that severe systemic disease he now has gallstones. He is never well and this year has been one of his worst since being taken ill in 2003.
Finally we were asked to consider whether we would prioritise our family over duty to our neighbour. I do find that very difficult as my beloved needs my support due to his chronic illness. I do also volunteer to help those with mental health issues and belong to church groups, the Labour party and am a local preacher, but if my beloved’s illness deteriorated more I would have to reconsider my commitments. We need always to be ready to serve others, but not forget family needs. We have found our current Bible studies very challenging.