At this time of year, my inner ‘Victor Meldrew’ is most likely to surface. It usually happens in response to someone saying ‘holidays are over now’ or ‘it’s the start of a new term’. As a single person without children and who left full-time education quite a few years ago, holidays usually come in September and the concept of a ‘term’ is now very alien. I do know that it’s me being prickly – it comes from previous church experience where I felt very much that I was different.

In contrast, on social media, most of my experience simply confirms that I’m normal and that all right-thinking people have the same opinions. As much as I try to seek alternative views, I end up back in an echo chamber for my own views.

That polarisation of groups and identities seems to be increasing within society as a whole and it feels profoundly unhealthy, especially when it’s used by people with very questionable motives. However, the desire to belong and feel accepted seems fundamental to our nature.

During August when the clergy are taking their well-earned holidays, I get to exercise my Reader ministry more frequently, helping out in the distribution of Communion, sometimes taking the Deacon role at the Eucharist and being alongside people coming for prayers for healing. I’ve been struck afresh that each one of us is utterly unique. As the Psalmist puts it, we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. It’s in bringing our whole selves without any pretension, that we are able to be open to Christ. It’s in those encounters with Christ that I realise that we are loved not in spite of our uniqueness but because of it.

Jeff Claxton