Upon reflecting on the phrase “Better Together”, the 2022 theme for National Volunteer Week in Australia, I am reminded that this is one translation of the Zulu philosophy of ubuntu – the wellbeing of ourselves being intrinsically caught up in the wellbeing of others, often translated as “I am because we are”. As such, I believe we are each custodians of each other’s care, and that the meaningful purpose inherent in volunteering is just one way of encountering the diversity of humanness that expands and shapes us for the better.
I have been involved in the Thread Together project since its inception as part of the ministry of St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Indooroopilly and Thread Together’s partnership with Anglicare Southern Queensland. It is a joy and a deep privilege when I am able to drive the van from our parish to sites, to sort and move boxes of clothing, to help guests choose their new clothing and to be part of a wider movement for merciful action.
I often come away from this volunteering with a sense that all involved have been custodians of each other’s care, choices and dignity. I come away aware that I have undertaken something that has been a gift to me. I believe there is an intangible empowerment for good on both sides of a perceived divide – made manifest in the tangible purposing of new clothing for those in need – that means the wellbeing of both is enriched.
The Church’s gift of diversity within its own community is exhibited in the life of volunteers. It may be that one volunteer has particular strengths for understanding a certain demographic or guest of a service. Another may speak a different language. In a purely practical and logistical sense for the Thread Together project, it became apparent early in the project’s inception that there was a necessity for logistical support, van maintenance, refuelling, licensing, driving, parking and navigating a vehicle quite a bit larger and heavier than most domestic cars. Shelving for the rectory garage was acquired, cut, and fitted to the inside of the space, requiring carpentry knowledge.
I see the flowing in and out of brand new clothing as an immediate physical manifestation of the fluidity of the Church’s boundaries outside the walls of our parish. This year saw a successful clothing hub project in St Andrew’s undercroft to care for people who had lost much in the 2022 Brisbane flood. Through the hub, our parish received the gift of being able to help people to choose new clothing for themselves and their children. Thread Together’s presence and drive are a continuing testament to the incredible life and mission of St Andrew’s Anglican Church.
Thread Together often services sites with guests from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Recently, I met a family whose youngest child’s name was a word from a prayer. This child was so named because saying his name gave thanks to God. After my conversation with this family, I thought about how I had never considered the casual use of my own name. I have never considered changing it – not on anyone’s account. I thought about how precious this child’s name is – as a personal identifier and as a prayer to God.
Sometimes we might dismiss a small shift within ourselves when we come to recognise another person’s humanity and human need. However, at times of international unrest our corporate intercessions may bring to our attention the suffering of our brothers and sisters globally. On our own shores, if we make time, reprioritise and are generous with what we have, our compassion may extend beyond mere cognisance of immediate misfortune with a meaningful response.
There is a gentle internal reckoning that comes with the recognition of how close our own humanity connects with other persons, whether difference is perceived or not. This reckoning is often a catalyst for the undertaking of small mercies that channels the flow of our own lives into the river of a wider current of change. If, as people of faith, we are recognised as such by our actions, then it is my wish to continue to be part of a faith community that nurtures opportunities to meet the diverse and abundant Spirit that is always walking towards us in the faces of others.Jump to next article