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February 2017

This month’s letter comes from Revd John Lees, associate priest in the Holyford Mission Community

On the shoulders of others

 

Sometimes sporting champions are carried around a stadium on the shoulders of their team-mates. This way of raising people up and making them visible relates nicely to a phrase made famous by Isaac Newton in 1676: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Newton was talking about the way discovery builds on earlier thinking, but it’s a good image for how we achieve things in life. If we see the world clearly, if we make new things happen, it’s because of other people.

Modern society likes to think of us all as individual achievers. You sit exams on your own, go to job interviews alone. We put career success down to individual ability. In reality, no one achieves any of these things on their own.

The Nigerian proverb “it takes a whole village to raise a child” exists in different forms across Africa – the Tanzanian equivalent is “One knee does not bring up a child”. It reflects a culture where bringing up a child is a shared effort, with responsibility shared not just amongst extended family but the wider community.

This a picture of how society has worked through most of our history. It’s only in recent generations that people have lived in a much more isolated way.

The proverb also reminds us how much we owe other people. Behind every person who succeeds you will find parents, godparents and the wider family, close friends, and many other people who shape us into who we are. We don’t always acknowledge the many people who have taught us, inspired us to new challenges, shared expertise, trusted us to grow in confidence.

Lent begins on 1 March this year. In Holyford Mission Community we run annual Lent programmes of learning and discussion, with each of the five churches we serve hosting one occasion. This year’s lent course takes the theme Inspirations. We will be joined by speakers from a wide range of backgrounds (public service, education, theological education, literature, and Christian leadership). Each speaker will be telling us about the people who have inspired them to become the people they are today. All are welcome. Please see separate post for details.

 

 

 

 

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