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2020: Living with a world of difference on our doorstep

Diversity, difference, how we can foster inclusivity in the Church today and why it’s important for non-English speakers to worship in their native tongues. These were some of the topics discussed at USPG’s evening fringe event at General Synod on Tuesday 11 February.

USPG’s Director for Global Relations Rachel Parry chaired the event, which was held in Church House, Westminster. Fifteen guests attended the event, including three bishops: the Rt Rev’d Robert Innes (Bishop of the Diocese in Europe), the Rt Rev’d Michael Ipgrave (Bishop of Lichfield) and the Rt Rev’d Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Suffragan Bishop of Dover). The three panellists were the Rev’d Jessie Anand, the Rev’d Canon Dr Medhat Sabry and the Rev’d Dr Hugo Adan Fernandes.

The Rev’d Jessie Anand spoke about her experiences as a new arrival in the UK in the 1990s, and what she has learnt from working with immigrant communities here. ‘My culture shock slowly faded away as my cultural understanding broadened,’ she said. ‘Since 2000, my call from God has been to live out the Gospel within this world of difference.’

In his talk, the Rev’d Canon Dr Medhat Sabry gave two takes on what ‘world of difference’ means. He said, ‘The “world of difference” could be difference from our perspective. But it could also mean the difference we can make to the world we live in – and that’s very important. We can all say we live in a world of difference. But if all we’re doing is watching, that doesn’t work.’

The Rev’d Dr Hugo Adan Fernandes, leader of the first bilingual congregation in the Diocese of Southwark, focused on the practicalities and challenges of leading a bilingual church. ‘There is something big and amazing in this kind of ministry,’ he said. ‘And I know that the Church of England has a lot to offer ministries like these, because our identity is in Christ and in embracing diversity.’

Summing up at the end, USPG’s CEO the Rev’d Duncan Dormor said, ‘We live in a world of xenophobia; a world of identity politics; a world where people are constantly putting up barriers and trying to divide people. What we’ve heard this evening about making a difference in the world has been inspiring.’

‘Living with a world of difference’ was also the title of USPG’s 2020 Lent course, available to read online.

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