Exclusion Zones

Here is my Thought for the Day for last Friday morning, which you can hear in it's live form, trimmed of the bits in italics in order to fit the 2 1/2 minutes, here, at both 26 and 86 minutes (in between thoughts about the late, great Burt Reynolds).
Ten days ago fire devastated the old Bank Buildings in Belfast. Thankfully no-one was killed but it caused millions of pounds of damage and put Primark employees’ jobs at stake… It quickly became clear that it would also have a massive impact on the businesses around it, but most people were astonished that the pedestrian exclusion zone around the unstable shell of the building will probably be in place for around 4 months, causing disruption to traffic and commerce… leading to understandable demands from surrounding business owners for the empty shell to simply be demolished, despite the outpouring of affection for the grand old building in the wake of the fire… Difficult decisions need to be taken in the near future, and there will be massive cost implications for individuals, businesses and the city as a whole… no single insurance company is going to be able to wave a magic wand and make everything instantly alright with a wad of cash…
Whilst the news of this exclusion zone was breaking over the past few days I was actually over in Glasgow, another city which has had a similar experience with the Glasgow School of Art going on fire for the second time in 4 years. I was at a workshop writing resources for those who have to preach and teach and lead worship and one of those present lived just across from the fire with her 2 young boys... and she told us of her personal experience of living within the safety cordon... 
One of the Bible stories which were looking in the workshop involved people who had a personal exclusion zone or safety cordon around them… those suffering from various skin complaints which in Biblical times were all grouped under the catch-all of leprosy… For fear of contamination of others they were forced to leave their homes and families and live at a distance… Even today it is occasionally necessary to isolate individuals from others… When I was a hospital chaplain I had to engage in all sorts of infection control procedures in such cases… But in times gone by they were not isolated for treatment, they were simply isolated… And in the story we were looking at, 10 of them encountered Jesus, but they knew the rules, so keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’
And it left me thinking about those in our world who feel that they have a personal exclusion zone around them… not for infection control reasons… at least not medically… But those who for various reasons feel excluded or isolated or have somehow excluded themselves… And we may wish that some people simply didn’t exist… but they do… Who ARE those that we avoid for one reason or another? And what is the cost of that exclusion not only on those individuals or groups of people, but also for us and for society? Maybe what is needed is not exclusion, but healing mercy…


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