“I have a home, I just haven’t got a flat or house to put it in” -A phrase I saw written up at the Occupy Site in Bournemouth, whilst I swigged a cup of tea, around a warm fire.
I was struck by the welcome, they didn’t know us from Adam and yet they welcomed us as friends.
I’d come up to meet them with my friend Chris, these guys had commandeered some land, and making a make shift camp, a safe place for the homeless to go to, with warmth and community, and yet unsurprisingly the land owners are already trying to evict them.
The truth is that we have a massive homeless crisis in this country, and rather than trying to deal with it many councils say “not in our backyard” in fact councils are trying to do C30(?) orders banning homeless from our town centre, “out of sight out of mind”.
Wandering through Poole with my dog the other day my wonderful wife said: “Poole Quay is really dog friendly…shame they can’t be quite so welcoming of the homeless” -our society sometimes gets things very muddled!
The cold wetness of the sleep out etched into my most recent memory made me think I would wish homelessness of my worst enemy. Chris and I were telling our new friend about our sleep out when he asked “what we do?” -Chris is amazing and does tons, but I felt a bit like a fraud as I’ve done a bit of justice stuff: foodbank/Street Pastors, but sat here it feels like a very small drop in the ocean, a tiny sticking plaster on a huge wound.
Our new friend who was making us a brew was chatting, he wasn’t actually homeless himself but is standing in solidarity with those who are, he’s an activist.
He chatted about ‘non violent direct action’, about the need for civil disobedience and protest. We chatted about faith, about human value, about Jesus throwing the tax collectors out of the temple (not exactly a non violent action!)
He talked of the original occupy movement, where camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral the huge crowd of protestors made a stand against at corporate greed and exploitation of the ‘invisible’ poor, and the doors of St. Paul’s where locked shut. The protestors rightly pointed out that they probably had more in common with Jesus than the middle-class institution that the Church has morphed into -but should never have sold-out and become!
He spoke of art, and power of localism -about invest in our local communities rather than lining the pockets of large corporations and fat cats.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about art, ideas, blogs, faith -especially that night wide awake on the increasingly wet concrete at St. James’ -Poole Civic Church in the middle of the conservation area. Wonderful site for protest.
I have come to realise that the truth is I want to change the world, I want to make a difference.
I believe that Jesus holds the key to all of this, and yet so often the Church seems so caught up on a wheel of self indulgence that doesn’t feel very world transforming.
The conversation moved on to Churches and their resources, and sat here drinking the tea of those who have next to nothing, and realise how much our Churches have but how tightly some grasp it with a scrooge like stingy iron-fist not willing to release their resources or buildings for the sake of the most marginalised. I remember the regular clashes with our treasurer, and wonder could I have done more to see the finance of God used for the purposes and pleasure of God.
The words of Shane Claiborne rang in my ears “how can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and then ignore one on Monday” -for Jesus said “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have their nests, but the son of man (Jesus) has no where to lay his head”.
Too often our mission and justice work can feel far too tokenistic, like its a hobby and real work is keep and institution grinding on, but I think its the wrong way around, the institution such should serve the mission, the raison d’etre of our being on earth I believe is to see the Kingdom break in, and see so much of the values of the Kingdom exhibited here in a way that the depth of my being yearns to see more of in the Christian Community -love, compassion, justice, fellowship, carrying one another’s burdens and self sacrificing love.
I once wrote an essay at college being profoundly moved by my years placement within the Priory Rehab thinking this looks and feels like how I believe Church should feel, and yet I’ve never seen a Church like this, but one again I yearn for.
Chris and I popped out to get some strepsils of a lad with the flu and as we returned we bumped into Sam a friend of Chris’, chatting away to the guy there and seeking to bless and serve. It made me think about the power of doing what we can, with what we have, and how warmth, love and welcome makes such a difference.
Often walking away from the homeless feels hard a bad, but it felt nice walking away as you could hear laughing and chatting as the guy put the kettle on. It made me think that the mission of transformation is at its most beautiful when it is a body ministry, not just a couple of keenies but community pulling together and creating something so much bigger than ourselves.
In the car on the way home Chris and I talked, and he said “I’d rather spend a week with those guys than at New Wine (a Christian festival) as I reckon I’d probably meet Jesus much more there…
I don’t know what my future holds, but I want it to be more than the odd guesture every now and again, I want to be someone who turns this broken and upside down world the right-way as we seek to see Christ’s big idea “the Kingdom of God” break out more and more fully.
Let’s not be jaded, let’s not give up, but believe that with Christ in us by his spirit another world is possible.
Let’s grasp that Jesus is just as passionate about life before death as he is about life after death.
As I think about my Christian life having met some of these remarkable activitists, I look in the mirror at myself and the Church -the Bride of Christ- and long for us to up our game.
“Church it’s boring” we hear so often -perhaps this is because we aren’t prepared to grasp the pain, cost of the rollacosta that Christ calls us to when he promises “life in all its fullness” -life spent with friends -all with our brokenness- and as we serve one another in the mess of life we discover that “what you did for the least of these you did to me!” and see the face of Christ.