Tonight at church we sang How Great Thou Art. The hymn book tells me this song is of Russian origin. This I did not know, though the song is very familiar. However, the words that pop into my head are the maori version…
We go to a tiny English speaking Anglican church south of Paris. I am very aware of how quickly we became a part of this congregation. We are missed when absent and included so willingly.
But I am also aware of being a very small part of the much bigger Church. Each week we read the Apostles Creed and one of the later lines in it says, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
I’ve always thought this was rather ambitious. The church is so divided. But affirming this every week reminds me that we have much in common and most aim to be united.
It is a thrill, a joy, to me, to remember that I am a tiny part of this much bigger thing. Sure, the church is more than problematic: responsible for so much that is overtly good (charity, generosity, community) and yet so much that I can never be proud of (discrimination, violence, hate). But what I’m thinking about tonight is belonging: how important, how great it is, to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
Currently, I am hyper-aware of being a New Zealander, what with being far away from NZ, my children just applied for Dutch passports… and to top it all of the Olympic games are on.
The Olympics remind us that we are all part of one world. The games bring all these nations together, even those at war. During the opening ceremony I think it feels like the whole world have got together to watch telly – doesn’t get much more family-like than that!
As a New Zealander, I feel like i am represented in London by a select bunch of athletes, even though I don’t really give two shakes about sport. In a strange way this sporting event seems to transcend sport.
As a member of a team, or a supporter of a team, we are in.
Belonging is so important. It motivates so much of what we do.
I just bought some new clothing – pants that fit! I am very aware that I’m dressing more and more like the French, like what i see here, in the streets, every day, than what would blend in back home.
I want to blend in – not to be dull and samey, but to be a part of my community, of my locality. I am foreign but I don’t want to look like a tourist. I want to be in.
Speaking of belonging… I’ve been thinking of finding a writers’ group. This turns out to be rather difficult due to language and location. I have found a drop-in writers group that meets at the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop in Paris.
This historic location, and being an artist in Paris… very charming ideas, but have reservations. Getting feedback on my writing, critique and whatnot, from strangers could have pros and cons. I’m nervous about sharing my work, of course. I don’t have anything prepared especially, but I will. I think the opening paragraphs/chapter of one of my finished novels would be a good thing to rework anyway. This is the bait, after all, that catches the publisher or agent… with any luck.
Next Saturday evening this group meets. I will endeavour to go along. I also intend to go along to one or two coffee groups this week. The small group of other mums there have been the other group, other than our church, to which I’ve come to belong, since arriving in France nearly six months ago.
When I’m working and focused and trying to get Elena into a habit of sleeping on her own, in her bed, it’s tempting to stay home and keep things simple… but it’s good for my sanity to get out, and good for me in so many ways, to discover that I do belong, in some way, in this foreign place.