Thursday, 1 May 2014

On Belonging

Written for the Littlemore Parish newsletter, The Window, Sunday, 4th of May, 2014

On Belonging

The worrying violence and tension between the Ukraine and Russia, focused first on the Crimea, now on the Russian-speakers of the Eastern Ukraine, and in a tamer, more civilised way, as the Scots proceed to the independence referendum in September, have me wondering about this sense of nationhood and nationality. Are you in the Ukraine, but feel Russian enough to ask Russia to invade it? Are you a Scot who feels sufficiently more Scottish than British to wish to sever the historic ties that unite the United Kingdom? It’s not a feeling I share.

Like many superficially English people, my family roots are not entirely within this country. Most of us, if you trace it far enough, are the descendants on at least one line of immigrants, strangers who travelled perhaps long distances to make their home here and amongst us. How long does it take to feel assimilated, to belong, in the new country? For all of her eighty-one years my Great Auntie Marie, although she was born in Battersea, felt she really belonged in the Italy her parents left. When I visited the farm in Ireland where my grandmother was born, I felt I could belong there - but could also understand why she’d left. So where do I belong?

The people of Israel in their wanderings discovered an interesting thing about belonging - that leaving Egypt for the Promised Land, or that land for enforced Exile in Babylon, God would always go with them. They eventually understood that was because God was not only everywhere, but everyone’s, a revelation brought to fruition in the Acts of the Apostles and the story of the church ever since.

Whether we feel comfortable or not with our belonging in this world, there is solace in God’s words “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1), and there is our true belonging, we belong to God.

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
Mayday 2014