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June 2018

This month’s letter comes from Rev John Lees

The gift

This month a lot of conversations and events have got me thinking about friendship. For example, I’ve reconnected with one or two people I haven’t heard from in over 30 years. Often the conversation has started again because I’ve emailed an old photograph. Scanning old negatives, turning them into digital images not only prompts good memories, it’s given me an excuse to get track down people I though had lost touch with.

Another reason the topic comes to mind is that I was asked to contribute to an article about friendship at work. appearing in the work pages of the Financial Times. One of the conclusions reached by the piece is that many people spend so much time at work that it’s a place where relationships are built – but some people are wary of making friends with colleagues, especially where you have to manage them. Oddly, when the article appeared online many people wrote fairly dismissive, cynical messages about friendship being irrelevant or counter-productive at work.

We also know that as work pressures increase, the chances to build warm friendships during working hours diminish. In the past when things were a bit quiet at work you probably enjoyed a conversation or two. Today, when work slackens off, people on minimum hours contracts are often sent home. If your only experience of work is to be under pressure with no time to ask questions, learn from other people, or just spend time getting along with people, an important dimension is missing.

This might sadden us a little. We have our fair share of funerals here in this part of East Devon, and so we hear a lot of life stories. We hear about family life, but we often hear about work, too. In funeral addresses people rarely say ‘he met all his targets and always worked late’. Often what is remembered is deep trust, good humour, helping people out in difficult times, being alongside people in the ups and downs of life.

Christians believe that God provides many gifts. The gift of community, for example, and – of course – the gift of friendship. God is often most clearly seen in the people around us. Friendship is not just a ‘nice to have’ element after you’ve done your chores and paid your bills. Being valued, appreciated, having friends who enjoy your company – these are the greatest gift.

God makes us gifts to each other. These are the times we value most – quiet, companionable summer evenings, or a fireside chat in the winter. Perhaps a long walk in the country with someone whose company you enjoy.

So, if it’s fashionable to believe that life is too busy for friendships, why not be counter-cultural – show your friends how much they mean to you. Reach out to someone who matters to you, especially if they’ve dropped off your radar. It might make their day.

Revd John Lees, Associate Priest

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