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After writing out my vulnerability on Monday (pouring from an empty vessel) about where I found myself (and where God called me from) I went to my Covenant Group meeting. Our Covenant Groups are designed to be our little bible study groups, our ‘cell groups’, our safe spaces and our family at SMMS. We do not choose which group to be in, we are allocated a group according to age.

Our group at the beginning of the year experienced a lot of conflict in our early stages of formation, (the storming stage of ‘forming, storming, norming’ was radically embraced) think 10 strong, independent, outspoken chiefs all putting in their 10 cents worth. It was not pretty…

You can’t be weak in this herd I thought, you’d be eaten alive …

But I also know that authenticity is far more important than mere survival. Authenticity leads to trust and trust leads to bonds…

Each week we ask the Wesleyan question of each other, ‘how goes it with your soul?’ Each week the 9 remaining (we have lost a member) answer; ‘it is well with my soul’. I was the last person to answer this week and as the question was being asked I debated whether or not to tell the truth or pretend. Should I say *engage smile* ‘it is well’ and be ‘safe’ or should I be honest, opening myself up to who knows what?

I chose honesty, I chose to say, ‘friends I am lost, I am feeling insecure, I don’t understand my context and I am struggling with language and finding my place here at SMMS’. The biggest, burliest, (seemingly) scariest man of the group looked at me and … laughed! Flip, that’s exactly what I was afraid of – don’t laugh at me, I thought, I may just cry. Then one of the shyest, gentlest men in the group looked at me and told me the story of another white female minister who was placed in a church community with a language different from her own and said to me, ‘when I look at you I think of her. Within 6 months of being a part of that community she could not only read the liturgy in Xhosa she could pray too’ and he said ‘you will learn, you will see, you will be fine’ and everyone nodded and said yes and promised to help me learn a new word or a new prayer or the words to the songs. The big burly man then gently reached over and touched my arm, gave me an encouraging smile and let me know that his laughter was of surprise not mirth. I think he was surprised that I don’t have it all together (when you pretend you have your @*$#  together, people believe you).

And then we prayed for each other and in between the foreign words being prayed by my brothers and sisters I picked out 2 words from my sister’s prayer, I heard the words ‘Philippa’ and ‘lost’ and I knew she was praying for God to let me know I was not lost and in that instant, I knew I wasn’t. I was found in the midst of my community.

We sang an African song and I hummed along … as you do … and then we sang ‘it is well’… an English song, for an English girl who chose to show her vulnerable side and who wasn’t left behind by the herd because of her weakness.

For the first time in the 6 or so weeks that we have been meeting, we all hugged out our good byes – one person’s weakness is the weakness of the whole group. One person’s pain is a reflection of where we have all been and where we might all find ourselves again one day… In the heart of my community on Monday I was reminded that I am not lost, I am one of a community. I am strong because I am part of a whole.

In fact last night I dreamt I let one little lone ant out of a perspex box and onto the wide open lush green grass – an ant, a community builder, created to create community, not to remain locked up inside a perspex box where it’s safe and boring, I let her free and she ran her little ant legs off, ready to build for the good of the whole.

Being part of a community means letting others in and yourself out! Surrendering your vulnerability helps others to see you’re human and gives them an opportunity to open their arms in comfort. Admitting you’re vulnerable doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong in unity with those who will hold you until you’re strong again…

For my covenant group today I am deeply, deeply grateful. Their love and acceptance has given me the courage to take one step further out of my safe little box and join in with the rest of the community as we try to build a better world for God – together.

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