Last Saturday, 10th September 2022, I went on my usual morning walk in the park, which is just five minutes from our house. There was to have been an event in the park today supporting the local Pride celebrations. Like many other things this weekend, it’s been postponed because of the death of the Queen.
There would have been a lot going on here today with presumably the weekly Park Run as well as all the other events.
Even so, the park was bustling with activity, and as I took my walk, I began to be aware of diversity. I noticed first of all the variety of the park itself with all the different species of trees. I also noticed the the different people that I encountered. For example I’d never been aware of the Sikh community in the city before, but I saw two Sikh men walking and conversing together. I also saw two people who looked to have come prepared for the Pride events, one with rainbow hat and skirt, and the other with a rainbow scarf.
In amongst all of that, there were people using the outdoor exercise equipment; there were runners, although I guess the Parkrun had also been cancelled; there was a group of young men exercising as part of the Military Academy MPCT, that among other things prepares people for the Armed Forces; there were a few dog walkers, and another group doing some kind of exercise; the children’s play park is well used ; this part of the city is very multi cultural and multi faith, and that diversity was also apparent all around me.
Here’s the thing – I had just completed my daily prayer podcast, and had begun to listen to an interview with Rowan Williams, who was Archbishop of Canterbury until 2012.
And as I was seeing all this diversity before me, Roman Williams was talking about exactly the same thing, The diversity of human life, and that whoever you are, you can take pride in who you are and what you are.
He went on to talk about a Russian Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky: “in the church, the action of Jesus Christ is to restore everybody’s possibilities, but it takes the Holy Spirit to make those possibilities actual in countless unrepeatable ways, so that the Holy Spirit’s presence, the Holy Spirit’s person you might say, is going to be the whole total of diverse human responses.”
Lossky again – we know that the face of the Eternal Word of God is Jesus Christ, but the face of the Holy Spirit to us is the infinite variety of human lives that have been turned around and transfigured by the Spirit.
As I sometimes find, it is the surprising conjunction of two seemingly unconnected things that struck me. The postponed Pride event, and Rowan Williams talking about pride – not the pride that is about flourishing at someone else’s expense, but about a loving acceptance of the person you are.
Grace and peace