• Rossendale Circuit

Fringe - From The Garden Bench

Words by David Hollows


For most of us the word, Fringe, will conjure up our childhood days and the way in which our hair flopped over our heads and eyes. Fashion has often dictated what has happened to the fringe and there have been and continue to be many ways in which the fringe on our heads can be presented or tamed.

The Oxford Dictionary definition meanings for this word do include that for a hair style and also the following:

Ornamental bordering of threads left loose or formed into tassels or twists The dictionary meaning also includes references to a natural border of hair in animals or plants and border edging linked to gardens.

For some of us, the word fringe may be connected to clothes or bed sheets or valences and curtains.

Others may associate the word with historical figures such as Columbus who sailed to the fringes of the known world and defied the intelligent people of the time with his discoveries of a new world. Currently there are several space ventures which are travelling to the fringes of the universe in the hope of sending new information back to earth to assist with improving life here on our globe or exploring other possible venues where human life could continue.

Some of us may have attended fringe events such as the annual events in Edinburgh which focus on the world of comedy and the visual arts and performance. Whereas some of us may attend other local types of fringe events connected to a particular type of music of theatre presentation.

At the annual political party conferences there are always the fringe meetings which take place alongside the main conference speeches when politicians are given an opportunity to mount a current hobbyhorse.

There may have been times when you have been involved with fringe conversations whereby you have not been directly included a certain conversation but you have been on the edge, listening-in. This offers the benefit of not having to provide an opinion rather there is the option to simply formulate one instead.

A recent new development for the word, fringe, has been in the world of science and medicine.

T-cells are an essential part of the human immune system which can now be removed temporarily from the body, be re-engineered or re-programmed before return to the body whereby these cells can make a huge difference in the treatment of cancers and other critical diseases. This alternative system of health-care is still regarded as a fringe therapy but reminds us of the wonderful world of medicine and the many new strides forward in dealing with dangerous diseases. Why not check this out with Doctor-Google?

The word, fringe, can also be associated with all kinds of groups which are outside the usual, the norm or the acceptable. These alternative groups can be on the edge of society and may be connected to political or religious groups as well as to the worlds of fashion music or media.

Photo by David Clode via Unsplash

In the Bible, the word, fringe, appears only on a few occasions.

In the Old Testament the word, fringe, appears only once in the very detailed description of the strict dress code God prescribed as part of the garments worn by the first priest, the first being Aaron, the brother of Moses. In Exodus chapter 28 there is the description of the fringe of the mantle which is of a design of various coloured pomegranates and golden bells.

In the New Testament there are only a few references to the word, fringe, and all involve Jesus.

There is the occasion when a woman touches the fringe of the cloak of Jesus to receive healing (Matthew chapter 9) and when Jesus was asked to allow the sick to simply touch the fringe of His cloak, again for healing (Matthew chapter 14).

In the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Church was regarded as a fringe religious group and was known as The Way (Acts chapter 9 verse 2) Paul reminded the early Christians that they were a holy people and nation, a title God had given to the Israelites when He brought them out of Egypt and wanted them to understand that they were to be different to the other nations around them. (Deuteronomy chapter 26 verse 19).

Jesus had a fringe group of the 12 disciples and the Wesley brothers in Oxford were very much a fringe group known as the ‘Holy Club’.

Christians are often regarded as being fringe people, especially those in the countries across the world where persecution of Christians is a reality. Christians are regarded as being different because of their lifestyle and national or political allegiances. This notion of being on the fringe can be problematic at times.

Sometimes in the life of the Church we describe those who attend social or community events as being on the fringe of the life of the church: these people attend a group which best suits their needs or interests yet have not chosen to accept faith or become a follower of Jesus or a lover of God.

Those in the faith often pray for these people and the concern of the Church is that these people will come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour thereby come to faith, become believers and inheritors of the Kingdom of God.

Sadly, there are those in the Church who allow themselves to be on the fringe of their relationship with God because they place boundaries around how much time, energy and interest they allow themselves to give to their faith and for God to be in their lives.

The Christian faith is rather like a sport: you may never play the sport or attend a sporting event rather you simply watch the sport because your chosen sport is still important to you.

So, are you on a fringe; on the outside and looking in or are you are the centre, fully immersed?

You may find the following prayer helpful:

Eternal God, the light of minds that know you, the joy of hearts that love you, the strength of wills that serve you, grant to those of us who are yours the blessing of your presence at the very centre of our lives. Forgive us when we keep you on the fringe of our lives and grant to us so much of your grace and love that we open all of ourselves to be filled with you, for we choose to be your children. In the name of Jesus, we pray.


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