Jesus meets us where we are
Anna Heydon looks back to her early years in the countryside, and reflects on the contexts in which Jesus meets us.
Having spent my early years living on a farm and in a remote rural community, I have happy memories of country life: milking the cows, a crazy school minibus driver who scraped up roadkill and put it in the back of the school bus for her cat, space and freedom, exploring abandoned ‘haunted’ buildings in the woods behind our house, small school classes with pupils from different years taught together, and snow days from school when our battered Land Rover couldn’t get through the vast snowdrifts which blocked our lane.
But life in rural areas has its fair share of challenges, which can include limited public transport, seasonal work and job insecurity, poor phone and internet connections, no access to mains gas, few community buildings or facilities. 900,000 people in rural Britain live below the poverty line and 18% of households experience fuel poverty. Those living in rural areas pay three times more in transport costs in spite of the fact that on average their earnings are lower.
Some of the joys and struggles of country life were brought home to me when I spent time with Rev. Mandy Bishop (Rector, Flegg Group, Ormesby). As she drove me round the group of parishes she ministers to, Mandy spoke with compassion, humour and obvious affection about life in country communities. She emphasised the importance of developing a deep understanding of the dynamics of the area, and of personal relationships. I was particularly struck by her accounts of simple but profound encounters with local people as she walks her dog on the beach each morning.
I was reminded of when Jesus met the Samaritan woman by the well. Jesus didn’t rush with his disciples to the centre of the village. Instead he chose to stay on the outskirts, and to spend time with this one individual as she went about her everyday work. Jesus relates to her using a context which she understands, and which is significant to her in her rural life, telling her that he can give her “living water” and that those who drink this water will “never be thirsty again.” As a result of his time with this one woman, many from the village came to hear what Jesus said and believed.
Whether we live in urban or rural settings I think we can be challenged by Jesus’s concern for reaching out to the individual and relating to them in the context they understand and operate in.
The above image is courtesy of https://www.cuf.org.uk
Anna Heydon is Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together in Great Yarmouth, a joint venture between the Diocese of Norwich and the Church Urban Fund, a national organisation set up by the Church of England to combat unmet needs in communities.
Read more about one of their projects here.
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