• PatFinlow

Boats are made to do 'boaty' things...

My previous blog aimed to highlight the synergy between faith and social activism, nevertheless, I’m aware of a lingering misconception regarding the role of faith groups and social reform.

But it struck me recently, that this picture of boats in Folkestone harbour (which graces my living room wall) may help to explain this misunderstanding.

When I go strolling around Folkestone (my home town) I only see boats when they are safely in the harbour or a nearby dry dock.

There, they look very picturesque as they are lined up neatly and are shiny and clean. I love the clinky sounds they make as they bob about, which combined with the swish and swoosh of the sea is both soothing and calming.

But I know these boats don’t exist to bob about in the harbour: their purpose is to do ‘boaty’ things, which take place out of sight in the sea.

What do I mean?

Well, boats enable fishermen to catch fish; they take people or cargo from A to B; they provide transport or accommodation for people having a holiday or weekend break; or maybe for a sneaky ‘booze cruise’ before a party. Or even as I saw this week, vessels helping scientists do important marine conservation work.

They were most definitely NOT made to stay in neat rows in a harbour or dry dock.

But for a boat, coming in to harbour is important: to refuel, restock, repair nets or other boat equipment … and for the boat-people to rest, recuperate and share boaty stories with others…

But…. that isn’t their purpose – it’s not what they were made for…

‘cos boats were made to do ‘boaty’ things out at sea…

But if the only time you saw a boat is when it is in a harbour, it might seem that was all they did. And frankly, if it was, it would make them pretty useless - a nice photo – but what else are they for?

Which is what many people think about the church and more widely, people of faith: they too may appear pretty useless, if they are only seen in their equivalent of a harbour or dry dock: gathering in neat rows on Sundays, making pleasant sounds with music & singing, perhaps with poetic readings and prayers…

BUT… in the same way that the purpose of boats is to do ‘boaty’ stuff, the purpose of people of faith is to do ‘faithy’ stuff… and, just like boats, it is usually done ‘out of sight’: feeding the hungry; comforting those who are suffering; providing shelter to those who are homeless; being a trusted friend or confidant to the lonely; visiting the elderly; advocating for the voiceless; providing skills training for the unemployed; providing fun times for kids and youth. And running like a silver thread through all this activity, bringing hope for a better tomorrow.

So I think that churches & faith communities operate in the same way a harbour does: they are places of replenishment, where people of faith can be restored, reminded, re-energised and re-equipped for their real purpose: bringing hope and help to those most vulnerable and in need.

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