A lot of work places are considering how they can nurture a more diverse work force. How can they attract people who don't neccessarily fit the established mould?
Coupled with diversity is a tougher challenge for employers: INCLUSION.
How can an employer better ensure that once the mould has been broken, all their employees have equal access and opportunities?
How can they best identify and reduce discrimination and intolerance?
What are the barriers to inclusion and how can they be effectively broken down?
One helpful mantra I've heard in discussion in the work place is the need to ensure staff can bring their 'whole self' to work.
That means, for example, being able to be open about hidden disabilities or medical needs.
Being honest about carer responsibilities.
Having your cultural heritage valued.
Having your gender valued.
It means being confident that a discussion with your line manager about religious observance, a request that you be able to come in a bit later after a school run, a sought for accomodation for dyslexia or even a coffee break chat about past bouts of depression - that none of these things will create a barrier to inclusion or to opportunities.
I realise that many of you will have experienced prejudice and discrimination for simply being you. This will have caused deep hurt and created disadvantage. It's not something that's easy to shake off and move on from and it can trigger defences that themselves create unintended barriers.
Often the best efforts by an employer can be undone by one colleague or manager. That's when you need strong relationships with peers or an informed staff representative to stand with you to put things right. I know some who have chosen (based on a wish for self preservation) to walk away rather than face the painful process of instigating change. Others of you will have fought back and suffered for it.
Here's some good news: whatever your circumstances, whatever you have experienced, you can bring your whole self to God.
He will not reject you. He will not turn you away or categorise you and rank you according to your abilities, your race, your gender or your achievements.
Here's some better news: he will equip you, strengthen you, give you new purpose, place you in a family of believers - he will break down barriers and stand with you as your champion.
But beware: by coming to Jesus you may also give others more reason to discriminate against you, to exclude you.
I'm not talking about an easy life here. However, I am talking about a life in which your whole self and your whole life circumstance do not have to be left at the door. I am talking about the ULTIMATE INCLUSION - being reunited with the one who created you and with the one who out of his all-inclusive love reduced himself to a life in a back water, to one who was dispised and rejected and abandoned.
I'm talking about a God who brought his whole self to you.
Will you bring your whole self to him?