For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about researching my family tree. Before I started, I spoke to my dad’s cousin, who has already looked into our past, and she told me, ‘Be warned! It gets very absorbing.’
Indeed, it does.
I have discovered that I am not what I thought I was. I am a Jones, but not very Welsh after all and at least as Irish, whilst most of my ancestors were Gloucestershire farmhands.
I’ve been fascinated to read the wedding certificates of my great-great grandparents, to find that some of them could not write their own names and to realise afresh just how extraordinary is our current age.
The greatest surprise has been how deeply all this has affected me. It has been nothing less than disorientating, and yet also left me with a profound sense of peace to learn about every individual in the last 5 generations whose DNA together made me.
Now, I find myself turning again to Jesus’ words, spoken to the crowds standing between him and his own mother and brothers:
‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 12:48-50)
So, can my newfound sense of ancestral belonging now serve to deepen my wonder at the community of Jesus’ disciples, that is, the church? In Oxford, where a quarter of the population move on each year, can we really be a spiriutal family?
I dare to believe we can. In fact, this coming Sunday will see Steve Thomas speaking to the church about covenant relationships, so I’m looking forward to getting some pointers…