“It’s a good job we’re all different, otherwise they wouldn’t sell many mixed biscuits.”

I can’t remember where I first heard that saying. I accept that it isn’t particularly profound, but it does highlight an important fact: difference. I’m not very bothered about mixed biscuits, but our diversity matters, not least in the church. But so too does our belonging together: our unity.

St Paul reflects on unity and diversity by likening the church to a body - the body of Christ no less. At every Holy Communion service, bread is broken to acknowledge that “though we are many, we are one body because we all share in one bread”.

The picture St Paul gives is of a body with its many limbs and organs, all needing each other. “If one part suffers,” he writes, “every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” It would be hard to criticise this picture of how things should be. But in practice it is all too easy to be satisfied with limits to both our unity and our diversity. This seriously limits the extent to which the church can flourish.

I’d be interested in your answers to the following questions.

“Our church is friendly.” Is that how it feels to people coming for the first time?

Are there parts of your parish which have little or no connection with your church? If so, what can you do about it?

How do you react when it is suggested there is a change to the time or style of worship you are used to?

Answers on a postcard, please . . .

+Richard Hereford.

A letter from the Bishop of Hereford

October 2017