Dear Friends

An urge for ice cream took us to Charlotte’s Jersey Ice Cream Parlour with friends this summer. It was there that what started with ice cream became so very much more.

This was our first visit (we really should get out more!) and we hadn’t realised that there was much more there than the ice cream.

Here is a place where people of different faiths, and no faith, meet to enjoy the simple pleasures of life… ice cream and family time together.

Here we met the animals… the donkeys, goats, wallabies and the Belted Galloway Cows (or ‘Oreo-Cookie Cows - black with a white band round their middle).

It was whilst admiring the cows from the hill top on that clear sunny evening with the urban sprawl of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe, Norristhorpe, Heckmondwike, Brighouse, Wakefield and Ossett set before us, that I noticed two Muslim women and their children, just like us, enjoying the animals and the view. Then one of the women spread out a coat on the ground, knelt and bowed forward to pray.

One of the children disturbed her, asking why she was praying there.

The woman stood up, put her arms around the girl and answered, ‘look at all this… all these places we can see from here… it’s beautiful. So much beauty and so many people… and God loves it all and everyone there so very much’.

The little girl agreed and left, and the woman returned to her knees and continued to pray.

I did not kneel, but I prayed there also… like her, thankful to God for the beauty of the place, and the vantage point that spread out before us the communities in which God’s churches are set and the multitude and diversity of people we rub shoulders with daily. I thanked God there and then for his love for the variety of life and the vibrancy and immediacy of faith that metaphorically ‘brought me to my knees’ in a moment of encounter I could not have anticipated.

So, thank God for family and friends, relaxing summer evenings, ice cream, unexpected pleasures, animals, the variety of humankind - loved and made in God’s image, the urban sprawl, the hill-top and its lush greenness and for moments of faithful encounter that bring us to our knees in prayer.

Revd. Janine Atkinson

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