This true story was told on the radio. I didn’t hear it myself; someone told m

Team Rector’s Letter                                   July 2019

This true story was told on the radio. I didn’t hear it myself; someone told me about it so the details may not be completely as it was broadcast – but this is the gist.


A man was travelling by train back to the town where he had been born and brought up, and where many of his family still lived. It was a difficult and poignant journey because he had just received the news that his father had died suddenly. As he stared out of the window, his sense of loss and grief overwhelmed him and he began to weep quietly. A woman in the same carriage saw his distress and diffidently came across to sit next to him. “Are you alright?” she asked. He told her of the sad purpose of his journey. He doesn’t remember what she said in reply - just some quiet word of sympathy and understanding - but he remembers distinctly that she laid a gentle hand on his jacket sleeve for just a moment. He never forgot that brief gesture which – he said - brought comfort in a way that words never could have done.

I think we will all find this a moving account.  However, also in the news recently have been cases brought against leading public figures for ‘inappropriate touching’. Let me say right away that I am absolutely against any form of behaviour that causes another person to feel threatened, violated or demeaned. And I wonder, perhaps if the genders on that train journey had been reversed, and it was a man inspired to reach out to a woman with a touch that was intended to be kind and sympathetic, might he have been reluctant to do so, for fear of accusations.

The fact is that for a variety of reasons we are different in the level of physical contact we feel comfortable with in a social situation. Some of us are huggers, some are more reticent and reserved and some will find ‘uninvited’ touch intrusive. As churches, we need to be aware of the impact of our behaviour on others. We should avoid an expectation that people will join in with group hand-holding or ‘a group hug’ and allow them NOT to join without feeling embarrassed. Any indication that behaviour is not appropriate should be dealt with through the safeguarding policies and procedures of the Church.

Jesus is often recorded as using physical touch as a means of healing, but if you look up the many references it is always a person seeking him out and inviting his ministry. What must surely motivate our behaviour on every occasion is the well-being of the other person, not our own needs.

When that is honoured, we will not go far wrong.


Reverend Ren Harding (Team Rector)

contact me at Joydens Wood Vicarage,

6 Tile Kiln Lane, Joydens Wood, Bexley, DA5 2BB  


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