My name is Helen, and I joined this new Christian Community (in Suffolk, England) in June 2016, as the first (and still only) resident among a dozen non-residential members. I’m on the journey of a lifetime, in north-west Ipswich, and I’d like to share it with you.
Until very recently we were simply the St Thomas Community, as we have very strong links with St Thomas’ Church. I live, and we meet, in the Vicarage, and Jutta the Priest-in-Charge is our Leader. But following much discussion and advice we have added the word ‘Pilgrim’ to our name – and I only realised after it had happened that we had actually made the final decision at Epiphany! What better examples of pilgrims could we possibly have than the Magi? Apart, perhaps, from St Thomas himself, who didn’t know the way, and doubted; but ultimately believed, and (it’s thought) went on a long journey to share the Good News, from which he never returned. ‘Thomas the Apostle’ is rather pleasingly listed as a ‘Notable Pilgrim’ on Wikipedia!
At one of our fortnightly Community prayer meetings on 5 January, during a reading from Matthew chapter 2, I was struck as I always am by Herod’s instruction to the Wise Men to ‘Go and search diligently for the child’. I started a new job a few months ago – I’m approaching the end of my probationary period – and I was delighted to be described as ‘diligent’ by my manager in her recent report on my progress. It’s a word I love (it will quickly become apparent how much I love words) – how good it is, and how hard at times, to be diligent! The dictionary.com definition reads: ‘constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything’ – definitely something for me to bear in mind as I try and establish a rhythm of blog-writing!
It’s heart-breaking to think that Herod could give what seems such sound advice, when he had such evil intentions. But our discussion that evening also got me thinking about something Paul said in Philippians, which we’ve been studying at other Community meetings: ‘The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached’ (Ch. 1, part of v.18). God can work through anyone, however bad or unsuitable they may seem to us. ‘Searching diligently for Christ’, or ‘the journey of faith’, or ‘the adventure of seeking God’ (which is one way our Community has found to describe the Christian Life) surely includes looking in unexpected places, taking some risks, and being open to the possibility of angels in disguise.