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What's your background?

'Adrian comes from a very humble background - born to a working-class family in Wolverhampton, Adrian attended state schools before winning a place at Durham University to read Theology.'

That's the beginning of an article I found from an ancient parish magazine the other day. 'A very humble background'. Interesting to reflect, do you not think, on the use of that word 'background'? In the online Cambridge Dictionary there is one definition of 'background' which fits that usage:

your family, your experience of education, living conditions, money, etc

But the primary definition is:

the things that can be seen behind the main things or people in a picture

I am guessing that, for many of us, living in a world of online meetings and encounters, this latter definition is most obvious. Well over a hundred people have now seen my 'background': books, pictures, icons, an MA gown hanging on the door that leads to the loo (it's a convenient place for the hook, not an essential item of dress for the seat beyond). On Zoom, you even have the option of changing your background. The Senior Curate is fond of this feature, and enjoys addressing me from a sun-kissed beach in the southern hemisphere.

You can change your background online. But what about the definition we started with? That's a background that is less easily changed. I can't change my family, my experience of education, the living conditions I grew up in, or the (lack of) money. Neither can you. And all of us spend the rest of our lives living with the consequences of that reality - as Philip Larkin infamously affirmed in a poem which I'm not going to quote here.

God doesn't love me because I grew up in a council house with a single parent on benefits. God does not love me because I now live in a nice house with a wonderful wife on a stipend. He loves me because I'm Adrian: me. And he loves you because you're, well, you.

One of the greatest Anglican voices of the twentieth century, Austin Farrer, said of our Lord that, by his birth, he 'gave back to God the picture of his own face, and the love of his own heart'. When are are in Christ, so do we: not because of our past, but because of our present. Love bids you welcome, just as you are - and just as you will be.

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