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Holly Berries in October!

By The Revd Canon Cate Edmonds,

I was out for a walk with my husband and dogs recently at one of our particular favourite haunts on the Jurassic Coast. We were searching for sloes, but that’s another story. I was struck by the number of holly trees that were full of berries. Now I associate this much more with winter rather than autumn, I’m sure some arborists may contradict me. But it seemed rather unusual to see so many berries this early on the trees. They certainly were very striking amidst the rusts and golds of the other trees in their autumn dress.

What was happening, I thought to myself, even more changes around us? We certainly have been living through a very challenging time and a very uncertain time. From day to day we are unsure as to who we should meet, where we are able to go etc. But being in nature has been, for me, a time to find some security. The seasons have come and gone and I have so enjoyed the joy of being in God’s creation and found it reassuring. Now though I’ve been disturbed if not thrown by an appearance which to me is usual.

However, seeing these trees full of luxurious red berries did make me stop and look more closely at them. I noticed that the leaves were slightly different to those I was used to seeing around Christmas, the leaves were not quite so dark green and certainly less prickly. Had I therefore just taken for granted that all trees were the same? This sent me on a train of thought, what else do I take for granted and see as just the same? Do I stop and notice difference and try to understand it?

This week I have taken part in Unconscious Bias Training, which all clergy and readers of the Diocese are expected to undertake. It challenged us to look at our own prejudices, to look at difference and work for understanding. We were encouraged not to make fast decisions, which was termed “fast thinking” about someone or something but to pause and consider, referred to as “slow thinking.” That of course can be easier said than done at times and we have to work hard at it, especially when we meet someone or something which challenges our long held view or even prejudice. There are many issues we encounter in our faith and in our understanding of scripture which challenge our prejudices; but if we are to live in harmony and in the words of Christ “love our neighbour,” then we have to put fast thinking behind us and move into slow thinking.

My initial thoughts, my fast thinking, looking at the holly trees was that the tree was wrong bearing fruit at this time, but with slow thinking I realised there may be other answers, for example there are other species of holly trees that fruit earlier than some. So when I am next fast thinking about something I am challenged about I know I must try to move into slow thinking and perhaps I will overcome some of my unconscious bias.