It’s been a long day. I’ve already been up for nearly 24 hours, having left home in a taxi at 3am! From there to the bus station to the airport and across the Atlantic to Philadelphia where thunderstorms have delayed all onward flights. So an anxious time of waiting once again …
But my anxiety is as nothing compared to that felt within the community at Finsbury Park and in muslim communities all over the country after last night’s terrible attack. My heart goes out to my own community in Evington and the many families I know through the local school who will be feeling increasingly threatened and unsettled by these events. We live in anxious times.
I haven’t been to the United States since I was 17 and haven’t flown much at all in the intervening years, certainly not long haul. So I admit today has been a nerve-racking experience. I wasn’t really expecting to have to strip off jacket, shoes, belt and empty pockets, to be swabbed because of my insulin pump and to be questioned a number of times about the purpose of my visit. I have felt under close scrutiny and that feeling has been added to by the numerous signs encouraging people to report suspicious behaviour, not unlike some of the wartime posters that led to increased suspicion between neighbours and a generally mistrusting atmosphere.
All of this makes for an interesting background to the conference I have come to take part in, looking at how the church can engage better with the local neighbourhood, seeking transformation and the common good. I felt prompted by some of the comments I have read from muslim friends to write to the trustees of my local mosque back home and offer them some reassurance of our continuing desire as Christians to work together for the wellbeing of all.
These may be anxious times, but time and again the Bible tells us not to be afraid. The way to dissipate the anxiety is not by giving way to fear and withdrawing more into our homogenous communities. Instead we need to be drawn by hope and love, to be reaching out in friendship to our neighbours to offer one another reassurance that we have more in common than what divides us. I love this CBBC video.
Children are wonderfully blind to the barriers we put up as adults, and it echoes one of my favourite quotes from Nadia Bolz-Weber: ‘every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side.’