One of the challenges of listening through the ears of a different culture is trying to work out (a) what is being said, (b) how is it being said, (c) to whom is it being said, (d) why is it being said, and (e) what is being heard from what is being said.

Listening to a keynote speaker at a conference is always a welcome experience. For one thing, it means I am not having to do it. But, it offers an opportunity to think, to hear afresh and to learn. But, listening this morning, I realise that being the outsider makes me listen differently. I don’t know how people are hearing Angela Ifill’s address or whether she is scratching where the people are itching. I think she is. But, if she is, then the context, the audience and the challenges are not the same as those we face at home.

Inevitably I listen through my own ears and my point of reference is the context of the Church of England in the Diocese of Bradford. The issue of ‘welcome’ is pertinent everywhere, of course, as hospitality and generosity are key signs of God’s kingdom. But, I realised this morning that, despite the fact that I understand every word that was spoken and am familiar with every element of the presentation, I don’t know how this has been heard, understood and appropriated by the local audience for whom it was intended. I don’t know what ‘welcome’ might look like on the ground in the particular churches of this diocese.

So, nothing deep here. Just another fresh experience of how some questions have to be asked of any communication prior to knowing what the words mean – and what response they are intended to provoke.