Recently, members of Carver Church in Windermere have been discussing the question “Why do we come to church?”

Now, there are lots of possible responses to this: it might, for example, be about the need to pray together, or about wanting to hear and learn more about the Christian message.

But, for many people, a big part of the reason is about community and support: people expect to find friendship in a faith community.

There is plenty of justification for this in scripture: the words “friend” and “friendship” appear many times in the New Testament.

There is an interesting take on this in Chapter 13 of the Letter to the Hebrews, which begins: “Let mutual love continue.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”.

This is what we expect of those who gather together in faith, that they should be a group of friends, caring for one another, and yet at the same time having the mind-set to befriend strangers. In a secular context, we have seen examples recently of friendship in action.

The joy with which the England women’s football team celebrated their success together was palpable; and they were delighted for others to share in that joy.

Then, we have seen the Commonwealth Games, the so-called “friendly” games, in Birmingham – a city of many faiths – emphasising the sense of community and welcome.

And when we recognise friendship as an expression of God’s love, it becomes an integral part of our faith and of our spiritual wellbeing.

Alvene and John Costello, Carver Uniting Church, Windermere