Harnessing diversity

Ever since day one, one of the church’s great assets has been the ability to harness the skills of many into a mission which is greater than any one individual. In the First Century this was one of the secrets which allowed slave and slave-owners, Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Greeks to worship alongside each other. Each felt they were called by God to be part of something greater and more enduring than their differences.  From time to time this has been celebrated on this blog, with posts on diversity and colour.

Yesterday the boat ‘Collective Spirit’ was launched by the Boat Project. The boat began her life in February 2011, as over 1000 people came to donate wooden objects to be part of the boat. Every object incorporated in the build has now been grid-referenced, so that their stories can be read. Everything is there, from clothes pegs and wooden spoons to pieces of the Mary Rose and Jimi Hendrix’ guitar. Of course the donation was a one-way street. Once an object was handed over a thin slice of it was taken for incorporation into the hull and the owner can never have it back. Their donations were permanent and irreversible. It is even so with our commitment to the mission of the church, I believe.

There are many spectacular images of the boat, but the one I have selected below is one of the more ordinary ones. Why choose a hairbrush rather than a piece with a more majestic history? There are a number of reasons:

  • Like many ministers, I often hear the words ‘ only me’ in church. People say they have ‘nothing special’ to offer, but that they are just ordinary, like the hairbrush.
  • Note how the hairbrush is invested with a new kind of beauty when incorporated into the sleek majesty of the whole
  • Seeing an ordinary object in an extraordinary setting allows us to see it differently. Maybe churches should be more extraordinary?

Image: achitectsjournal.co.uk

I wish the Collective Spirit well on her Olympic voyage, and hope that many of us can emulate her ability to create beauty out of diversity with such panache.