UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
Craig’s letter for February 2020
Revd Craig Bowman
It was Miss Marple (in Agatha Christie’s stories) who always used to be able to spot a murderer because they showed the same undesirable traits as someone she had once known in her village of St Mary Mead. I feel much the same! Not, I hasten to add, because I am surrounded by murderers - far from it. Instead I find myself surrounded by caring and committed people.
However, as those of you who have moved home and/or jobs will realise, when you move to somewhere else the new people around you can remind you of those you’ve left behind. As I grow to know the people here I’m reminded of those I’ve left in previous places, and I find myself thinking, ‘Oh, she’s just like so-and-so’, or ‘He’s so much like old what’s-his-name’.
At times it’s most uncanny.
The positive side of this is that it helps me to feel at home when I’m surrounded by people and characters I can identify with - those whom I feel I already know.
However there is a big danger.
Joe from Cheam is not Bob from Exmouth, and Mildred from Wallington is not Daphne from Swindon. I need to remind myself all the time that those I am getting to know are unique individuals. Although they may have some things in common with those I’ve left behind, they are not the same and indeed may be very different apart from some superficial similarities. Each person that I’m getting to know is someone new to me, full of the gifts and wonder of God.
It’s an awful lot to take in at once and I have to confess it may take longer than I would like. Sometimes I think I’m getting there, but then I will mis-name or mis-place someone and I realise how much further I have to go. These set-backs are humbling but they are also a good reminder of the unique nature of all God’s people, and how we must treat them as such.
One thing that stands out so strongly for me when I read the gospels is how Jesus treated each of those who came to him as a unique and precious individual, and not as a series of symptoms or a list of qualifications:
The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, is singled out and healed - the healing of that one individual is more important to Jesus than speaking to a large crowd of followers. Mary Magdalene is accepted for who she is and not what she is. A crippled man hears his sins are forgiven and that makes him well.
It’s a theme that runs through the whole of the New Testament and it is one which is a challenge to me and I hope to you too - to treat each person as a unique individual, valuable for who they are, and not as someone to be compared to others we know and have known.
The Revd Craig Bowman is minister of St Andrew’s Cheam and Wallington United Reformed Churches