One of the recurring themes of these Oly...

First published 2nd August 2012

One of the recurring themes of these Olympic weeks is the value of being part of a team, being part of a bigger thing than just 'me and my gold medal'.

Before, during and after the actual event it makes a difference: training together, encouraging each other beforehand, spurring each other on (witness the men's breaststroke last night - go Team Bath!); sometimes working as part of a team during the event (eg the men's cycling road race where although it was about individual Gold, the team enabling one man to go on and win was a key element); and after the event, making it easier to deal with defeat or having someone with whom to share the joys of victory. Even the most solitary marathon runner is part of a bigger team and is the better for it.

I've just come back from a thoroughly decadent holiday in Jamaica (any prospective ordinands need to know this is the exception rather than the rule for clergy in the CofE!) where God showed me in the most unlikely place what it means to be part of a bigger picture. Our trip to the Dunns River Falls was via catamaran and, for the return journey, we went home 'the long way', travelling out to sea a little way to enjoy a party on board before disembarking.

Our little boat containing about 70 people set off into an increasingly choppy sea. After about 10 mins, we were joined about 30 feet on our starboard side by another catamaran doing the same thing and suddenly the whole enterprise took on an entirely new feel. No longer were we a solitary boat on a big and mildly scary sea; suddenly we had a fellow traveller along with us, sharing our excitement and joy (and the occasionally scary moments as we topped an even bigger wave and fell down the other side). It's hard to explain in words what changed but it was as though the Wind of the Spirit had suddenly passed through us all - you could see it in the faces and smiles of those around us.

After 10 minutes or so, the other boat changed course and we separated for the return journey but the aftermath of that heightened sense of companionship for a small part of the journey remained to the end of the cruise. It was a curious moment of joy which I believe was God-given to show the value of travelling alongside others in our journeys. Not necessarily working with others but just the joy of glancing over at another boat full of people sharing the same bit of the journey and revelling in our 'not-alone-ness'. Without even being able to exchange speech, we connected with others and shared their joy for a little while.

Isn't this a model for our churches which we would do well to ponder on? We spend a lot of time worrying about the detail of 'working together' which so often means difficult compromises and rather tedious meetings to get to a place we can all agree on. I'm not saying that this isn't important - it is often the very best way of living out mission in the local community - but maybe sometimes it's enough just to glance over at our fellow pilgrims in another church and say 'we share your joy in the Gospel', to know that, although we may not agree on everything - you are in your boat and we are in ours - we are not alone in our little boat on the stormy seas of the world.

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