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Open Hands

Open Hands
August 5, 2019 Sandra Goodwin

Walking through the town of Ennis in Ireland we turned a corner and there in front of us, beside a cathedral was the statue you can see in the photo. It seemed to reinforce my over-arching theme of ‘Open hands, and Space to grow’. The hands sit empty, as if waiting to receive, and yet at the same time being available to offer what ever may be needed. It seemed to me to be a fitting symbol for a church, suggesting perhaps that the church is there to offer support to the community, but also ready to accept whatever people may bring to it. That, maybe, is idealistic, because although within our churches we seek to offer the hand of friendship and be open to anyone who may come near, we do not always live up to our own intentions. Within the past week I have heard stories of visitors to churches being made to feel unwelcome, told that certain seats are ‘reserved’, or being ignored when coffee is being served. The quality of welcome is important. It is usually the ‘first impression’ one has of a place, and can set the tone for the rest of a visit, or even influence whether the visitor ever comes that way again.
So, an outstretched hand in welcome and a smile can go a long way to easing the transition between one environment and another. It is about being ‘open’ not ‘closed’ to those we have not previously met. Yet, however hard we try, there are times when meeting others can be difficult; an expression, an intonation, a silence or just a sense of ‘differentness’ can influence how we interact, not to mention physical appearance of dress etc. We have to be our open, relaxed selves, allowing ourselves and others, to ‘be’ and not ‘do’ to keep our welcome genuine!
Returning home at the end of the week we stayed one night in Caernarfon. I had never been there before, and before leaving for the long drive home we took a walk around the town. It was quite early and the streets were fairly quiet, but there were shopkeepers and passers by chatting, some on their way to work and the business of the day. There was an unhurried atmosphere, a feeling that time could be given to others. The town felt alive and interesting – a place where one could spend a little time. Some streets were hung with umbrellas in bright colours giving a happy, almost celebratory feel to the streets, inviting you to explore, with the castle and town walls providing a protective area. The outer side of the town walls looking out to Anglesey; the sea was calm. Two chairs had been left on the walkway – a cup of coffee, and a quiet sit looking out was tempting, but home was calling. Maybe another time.