(Photo courtesy KF)
This is my flower arrangement from last night. The thing that prompted me to do it was the statement from the Muslim-Christian Forum I linked yesterday.
I struggle a lot with the whole national identity thing - I tend to self-define, if I must, as British. Living for over three years in Scotland I have come to understand how often ''England" and "English" are used when "Britain" and "British" are intended. Whilst I don't think England can be blamed for the linguistic choices of the USA, Australasia or even Europe, it is rightly annoying, and sometimes antagonistic, to the other three parts of the UK to be defined as what they aren't; especially when these are often people with a far stronger sense of nationality.
To be proud of one's national (or regional) identity, and to enjoy its unique traditions, myths, culture and cuisine is good; to define 'us' over against 'them' is not. England is probably unique in the UK in that its lack of botheredness with its national identity and symbols (saint, flag etc) has allowed dangerous extremists to appropriate them. Being the biggest by population part of the UK has maybe led to a kind of complacency that is now reaping an ugly harvest. Because of this, I applaud the statement put out yesterday, though do understand that for some Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish people it may read far less positively.
All of which is a very long way from flowers - or is it? There is something about being a minority that stirs national identity (why else do immigrants and expats gather in close proximity?). I actually feel more English now I live in Scotland - which is a theological nightmare as I consider allegiance to Christ must override any geographical or socio-politcal identity. Perhaps then, in a way my flower arrangement holds this tension...?
Roses - associated with England. Red for love (and the English rose), white for purity, pink for grace, yellow for friendship, red & white together for unity (not a party political statement, honest!).
Heather - generously donated by someone who'd brought it along (I had failed to find heather, bluebells or thistles!) associated with Scotland. Apparently as well as 'luck', white heather symbolises protection.
So, roses and heather, entwined with tartan paper 'ribbon' (I failed miserably to find any tartan ribbon on sale near the church; perversely could think of oodles of places in England I could have got it!). Not just any old tartan though; this was the Baptist Union of Scotland tartan (did you know they had one?) printed from an online image!! It is in covenant with the BUS that we are united.
And a little red tartan animal - a wee dug? a wee coo? or a little lamb? No idea! It was the one tartan thing I found on sale, so I bought it.
Your people will be my people, and your God my God... it cuts both ways, as I embrace the people and culture of the place in which God calls me to serve, they too embrace me and what I carry with me of mine.
I don't think flower arranging will ever become my forte, but it was a fun evening and I enjoyed researching the symbolism to weave in to my attempt.