One of the hymns we sing regularly at St Michael’s Church, Sheerwater is Let us build a house where love can dwell, which has as its refrain, ‘All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.’ I love that inclusive message, and am privileged to be linked to several groups that live it out.
I loved joining the Woking People of Faith walking pilgrimage around Byfleet last November and hearing about different faiths, including Methodism, Baha’i, Hinduism and Islam, with the chance to chat and share food together.
At St Michael’s I love helping with our weekly Pop-up Café, where 30-40 children come after school for healthy vegetarian food, games and a friendly safe space - these include many from Muslim families, Christian or with no faith allegiance. Needless to say all are welcome, and it is a lovely, lively, noisy event.
I am a Franciscan, and inclusivity is built into our lifeblood. Meeting a leper near Assisi led Francis of Assisi to include the most marginalised in society in his ministry, and meeting Sultan Al-Kamil in Damietta in Egypt led him to hold Muslims in the highest respect and influenced his later writings on worship. Franciscan friends of mine today volunteer with food banks, Street Angels and working with and hosting refugees, and I was privileged to write and direct a play about Francis and Sultan Al-Kamil for a joint Christian and Muslim audience on the 800th anniversary of their meeting.
Finally, I am happy to be a musician for the Guildford Rainbow Eucharists, which provide a safe and inclusive space for LGBT+ Christians and their allies to worship together.
As a Christian, my mantra for anything I am involved with is, who would Jesus be willing to include? The answer, I am convinced, is everyone.
Rev Jay Whittaker, member of the Franciscan faith
Date: Monday 19th June 2023