We had a party here last night; it was our New Year Social, organised by the Northern Homegroup - and they took their "northerness" very seriously, and gave us an evening with a Scottish theme. Personally, I enjoyed it very much (sweets from my childhood, dances that I grew up learning and quizzes at which I was good enough - all pretty blissful!)
Others seemed to enjoy it too. There was an interesting mix of people - we were mixed by age, ethnicity, reasons for counting ourselves "part of" the church; there were people who attend different events, capacity to dance and all sorts of other things. Of course there were missing faces - faces who are part of our congregation who for one reason or another were not with us last night, and faces who are not part of our community - those who would not want to identify with us, those who would not feel at home with us, those whom, unintentionally I hope, we manage to exclude.
And we can properly lament that, and try to broaden our welcome and deepen our capacity to connect across boundaries.
But it is also good to celebrate and rejoice in what we are - that we do have something of a mixed community, that we are still here at the beginning of our 170th year (watch this space and other places for news of what we are doing to celebrate this anniversary!) - and still being here is worth giving thanks for, when we reflect on the vicissitudes that this fellowship has gone through in 170 years, and that we have a new year of service, love, celebration, and commitment to enjoy.
And so much more to celebrate....the depth of relationships that we can recognise and that we can commit to developing; the amazing questions that people raise, and the resources that are around to explore answers; the gifts that we give one another in friendship, in support, in laughter and in challenge; the difficult relationships in which we discover what one writer calls "the unbearable otherness of other people" - and the skills to live together; the discontent with how the world is and the desire to change things - and the encouragement we can give one another in this....and so many more aspects of life.
And above all, the joy of knowing that we are called the people of God and so are constantly exploring what that means and how to live it.
So - happy new year. And - since we were being all Scottish last night! - lang may your lum reek....