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Better together

Imagine how we'd feel if Germany entered four regional teams into the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Or New Zealand had both South Island and North Island teams representing them in the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Would that be fair?

So how fair is it really that the United Kingdom gets three or four teams in major sporting competitions? England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all had qualifying games for next year's World Cup in June. England and Scotland even played each other (a close draw, you'll recall)! I can imagine for many countries that doesn't seem entirely fair.

It's an accident of history in some ways: we invented, or played a major role in popularising so many of these sports that we managed to set the rules right from the beginning to allow us extra representation. In fact, for many years the UK refused to enter a joint football team at the Olympics – the individual countries were afraid that if they did it once, pressure would be put on them to join together in all competitions.

Except, every so often, they do come together: it's going on now in rugby in New Zealand, with the British and Irish Lions, the team which only exists every four years with representatives from all four home nations – including Ireland, a team which already includes players from both Britain and the Republic of Ireland as a matter of course. Players who usually engage in fierce rivalry, brought together in something which overcomes the usual barriers and borders. People who, last time they saw each other, were slugging it out to beat each other, now sharing resources, ideas and support. There's something special about the Lions, something special about that cooperation, which forges deep friendships, deep respect, and sometimes astonishing results.

From the earliest days, the followers of Jesus Christ also realised that their community, the Church, newly born by the power of Jesus' Spirit, broke down the old national boundaries in a way which led to something special. Still now, in churches everywhere, we continue to learn that we're better together – that in learning from our different strengths and perspectives, and with everyone contributing their gifts and talents, we can build a community where everyone belongs, everyone is important, where deep friendship and astonishing support flourish.

St. Peter's Church

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