July/August 2016 letter to the 
Parish from Paul Seymour on arrival in Hatfield and differences ….

Hello.  The first thing to say is that it is good to be here.  I have two amazing parishes (St Michael’s Birchwood and St John’s Lemsford) and I’m be-ginning to learn what a fantastic team we have in Hatfield.  Like you I look forward to Reverend Darren joining us.  I hope his move is every bit as easy as ours was and that he soon feels settled in and at home.
This is the second draft I have written for the Refocused letter;  the first was perhaps a
more traditional vicar’s letter, but just occasionally events overtake one.  This weekend has been such a one when I have found my emotions pulled by two events.  As I write the news is reporting the shooting of club goers in Orlando, America with fifty dead and at least another fifty injured.  The reason being given is that a young man of Afghan descent and who happened to be a Muslim, saw fit to enter a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual club and shoot people for being these things.  It is being reported that somehow he saw himself as doing God’s will, but it is known that he has a history of violence against people that he could hurt, and that  his wife had lived in fear of him.

At the same time the news is full of stories about the violence between English and Russian football fans.  Fighting in the cafes, fighting in the streets, fighting before the match and after the match.  We see the unseemly and unedifying sight  of some Russian men charging at English supporters who respond with violence.  These supporters may even think that in some way their violence shows how proud they are of their nation, whereas in reality it is demeaning to us all.

I could say much about the dangers of nationalism, the easy access of weapons and the damage done to individuals, families and society by these two evils but I’d rather spend a few moments addressing what I consider to be part of the root cause  of such vile and offensive behaviour.

As a Christian and as a priest I believe that all people were made in the image of God.  That is regardless of their gender, sex, sexuality, religious belief or lack of it, their politics or indeed any other aspect of human life that makes us different from each other.  It is when this principle is violated and we no longer see each other as God’s creation  – created in the image of God, that discriminatory attitudes begin and such awful behaviour, as I mention above, begins to happen.

I truly believe that when God made us individual, it was to enrich society not to divide us into narrow sectarian groups.  Which is why I believe that if we want society to be harmonious,  we as Christians must lead the way by accepting all people as equal and not seeing difference as a   problem.  Rather let us celebrate difference and  enjoy the diversity that God has given us.

To finish this letter in the way I intended to write initially, may I wish God’s blessing on you all and ask you to pray for the survivors of the shooting in Orlando and those hurting in the violence in France—that they will be comforted and make a good recovery.                 

Things have moved on since I originally wrote this letter and I feel obliged to add to it.

The events I spoke of in this letter happened prior to the Brexit vote and all the consequences that serves up.  I have, as I’m sure all of you have, been surprised and distressed by reports of racism since.

On Sunday 26th I preached on the reading from   Galatians 5 and the following verses  “But the fruit of the   Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

If we could follow the principle that the Apostle Paul offers of acting in love, then the other gifts of the Spirit as listed would soon be evident and I  believe our nation and society would be a better place to live.