The idea of inclusion seems so simple, and yet the practicalities of it grow increasingly complex.
Working for a charity which has inclusivity as part of its core ethos, I hear too often the voices of those who feel excluded, for one reason or another.
And if it isn’t one reason, it really is another – we seem constantly creative in our ways of creating barriers and walls between one another. Then of course, if we are committed to bringing down those walls, then we become exclusive of those who are not so inclined.
It is for these reasons that I like to talk about inclusion, to discuss, openly and honestly, who feels included, and who excluded. When do you feel included, by whom, and how?
Close to where I live, on the edge of my council estate, where there should be an access road on to the bordering private housing estate, there is a big metal wall. It genuinely looks like something from the cold war, and it probably is about that old. Whenever I go past that wall, or point it out to someone, I am forced to reflect on what that wall says about our society, and what it means to those who live on my side of it.
And now politicians talk of walls, and no fly zones, and of who belongs where…
Inclusivity seems so simple, yet it is so difficult to put in to practise.
So this is why I’m excited to be part of a day conference where we will talk, simply, openly, explicitly, about what it means for people to be included in church. Mostly, over the last few years, the ‘inclusivity in church’ conversation has revolved around sexuality, as part of a corrective to a collective obsession with something Jesus had remarkably little to say about.
But while this remains a live issue, there are plenty of other issues of inclusivity in church – ranging from disability to gender, and from learning needs to poverty – very much the elephant in the room, so far as I am concerned.
Of course a conference about inclusivity is by its very nature somewhat exclusive, not many people are as keen on conferences as me, not everybody can get to Grimsby (even if it is the centre of my world), and not all of us can speak or read English well enough to follow the discussion.
But it’s a starting point for some, and a stepping stone on the journey for others, and if you would like to join us, then please do. There is a small charge for the conference, but if you haven’t got the cash, then its fine, we have a free ticket code too.
In an ideal world there would be a multitude of voices, all talking about how we can make our churches more inclusive, and working out plans of action to help one another do just that. But that’s the simplest form – and we all know it will be more complicated than that, inclusivity always is.