What does it mean to be called friends not servants?

Blog by Helen Reid

2023 is set to be a year of friendship for Leeds Church Institute; we have named friendship as our theme for theological reflection to be woven through a year-long programme.

To get us started, the Book of the Month for January is Friendship. Interpreting Christian Love by Liz Carmichael which was nominated by LCI member Revd Tom Lusty. This is a compendium of ancient and modern understandings of friendship, which shows the richness of Christian friendship and the inadequacy of seeing friendship as shared interests only. Friendship is a true expression of Christian love in action and the means to enact the transforming love we experience from God for the benefit of others. This book is commended by Rowan Williams as ‘A treasury of insight and resource’ and by the late Desmond Tutu as ‘A persuasive rehabilitation of the love of friendship’. You can borrow a copy from LCI to read.

Another LCI member, Rachel Flint, has shared her thoughts on friendship through poetry. The poem is titled Jericho and is full of biblical illusions as it expresses the hope and transforming joy of friendship.


Anytime shadows make you feel unworthy
Mock you, obscure all light,
Remember this –

Love and memory are immortal,
Friendship is just outside the boundary of darkness
Knocking to come in, singing your name,
Making prison walls crumble.

My appreciation of these resources is rooted in the inspiration found in John Ch.15 where Jesus tells his disciples that he no longer calls them servants but friends. As Jesus is our friend and also our role model, then we are called to be the friend of others too. An expression of this for us at LCI is that we value partnership and affirm cooperation, alongside learning, as our modus operandi. It is not only an effective and inclusive way to work, but rather importantly it is central to our understanding of being a Church Institute.

Moreover, to be called friends and not servants means we don’t just have work to do but also something to be. We are empowered to seek the good of the city in mutual cooperation and support – seeking racial justice, reducing inequality and isolation, inspiring creativity and building mutual understanding – as Christians and with others. I’m looking forward to discovering all we can achieve and be at LCI in 2023, as a new staff team alongside others in the city.