There’s a road in Gloucester which has big red signs by it saying ‘Shared Space’. Research suggests that pedestrians get so used to having the pavement to themselves, and drivers so used to having the road to themselves, that they become less vigilant and there are accidents. But if you blur the distinction between road and pavement the drivers pay more attention to the likelihood of pedestrians on the road, and slow down. Of course you couldn’t use this idea all the time – I’m not sure ‘Shared Space’ on the M5 would be such a good idea, but it certainly works on that stretch of road. It’s not clear who has right of way so I’ve seen drivers slow down to a stop as pedestrians hesitantly cross.
I wondered what difference it would make to me if, when I left my house in the morning, there was a sign post on the street saying ‘Shared Space with God’. I know there’s a sign like that on the front door of every church building, and that does make me pay attention. But what if it was on the door of Sainsbury’s, of my office, of my living room, even on the M5? What difference would it make to me if I realised that God is present in the ordinary as well as the special things?
I suppose that all depends on how you see God. If God is the angry judge wagging his finger at you every time you swear, go over the speed limit or think an unkind thought, this could be very oppressive. I can see why people might want to lock that kind of God up behind thick church doors, to be endured once a week and then escaped. But if God is the attentive friend, the compassionate counsellor, or the adoring lover – the one who I ache to be with and who brings meaning to the most mundane of tasks – what difference would that make?
Then ‘Shared Space’ wouldn’t be a threat, but a promise, every footstep would be on holy ground, and all creation would resonate with glory.
Ian Bussell, Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Co-ordinator of Curate Training