I’ve been in post for 50 days now; long enough to meet many of the people that visit and work at St Mary’s. I feel warmly and genuinely welcomed and very at home here. And I also witness this experience in the eyes of the people around me.
It has got me to thinking about the concept of welcoming, and how it is that St Mary’s does it so well. A welcome can be polite and courteous, adhering to all social norms – a recognisable expression of positivity to the arrival and inclusion of another.
My experience at St Mary’s is of something greater than this. I have been made to feel like a space has been created for me. This is so in the literal sense that a beautiful office has been cleared and equipped, with a view out of arched windows over the green, treed space, held in the curve of the mossy, stone wall. It’s also true in a figurative sense; in the way that we create room for somebody to speak or contribute to a shared project.
The welcome I have received here has often gone further still. I have sensed a something more permissive and affirming than the space created. Its something to do with an invitation to bring something of myself into that space and into the wider, undefinable, relationship that exists wherever people share a place. This invitation is for more than answers and solutions or even suggestions. I feel an invitation to bring my potential, however flawed and limited this may seem to me. My St Mary’s welcome has been more than an acceptance of who I am, but an attempt to appreciate or believe that just my being here will itself be positive to the shared sense of this place.
This has been a wonderful experience for me, and gives us a perfect cornerstone from which to build in the New Year, as we establish the best ways to break cycles of poverty, injustice and isolation. Giving this experience to others, the belief of another in me that I have the power to contribute, irrespective of any qualification or skills, or things I have or have not done in the past. The reception of the somebody’s belief that I can add, just because this ability is within all of us, is so powerful in breaking the inner, mental cycles that perpetuate poverty, injustice and isolation.
I look forward to welcoming everybody back in 2022. Its sure to be a challenging year. We will do our best not only to change the outward circumstances of people’s lives that sustain cycles of poverty, injustice and isolation. We should simultaneously remain mindful of the power that comes from positive self-belief; something that we build every time we welcome another to this place. And we can all welcome others, whether we are paid volunteering or visiting.
Jon Sparkes, Manager