On average, homeless people die at 47, far below the UK life expectancy of 81 years. A homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to attempt suicide than someone who has never faced homelessness, 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft.
Homelessness is on the rise in the UK, in Birmingham and in Erdington.
As Christians we have traditionally been at the forefront of trying to do something to help homeless people. This remains the case. But faced by a rising problem we need to rise too. We need to step up and be salt and light for our brothers and our sisters who find themselves without a secure place to live. Christmas is often a time when we feel even more challenged about this issue.
Unashamedly, I want to challenge us all. What can we do to help the people on our streets, in our community who have nothing, have no stable place to live, have so many problems that they have been through and still face such complex challenges?
Once again, there is a list either included with your email or available at church, of places and projects where we can get involved. Also, with other Christians in Erdington we are currently seeking to set up a weekly support project aimed especially at people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It would be once a week during daytime. Could you help?
And, we are preparing ourselves to be ready to open our doors to individuals who would otherwise be sleeping out in the deep cold as an emergency measure when the need arises. Could you be part of our team of volunteers? We also remain committed to be one of the host churches for a Birmingham Churches Night Shelter next winter. Meanwhile, I urge us all to pray, do what we can as individuals, act and vote in a way that reflects our Jesus values on this issue and more widely!
God bless, Gerard.
In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul gives this advice to Timothy:
“Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live
quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God.”
Quite rightly, we pray for our leaders: the UK Government, leaders of other countries etc. For obvious reasons we will, I am sure, all have been doing this quite a lot just lately! And we need to keep on doing this – at all times
But in the line before this quote from Paul, he says,
“First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all…“,
We need to pray for each other, as well as for politicians. As we move through the Brexit (or not-Brexit) process; as we continue with a General Election, maybe even another referendum, we need to pray for each other that we would have wisdom. If we just pray for our leaders there is a
danger we dump all the responsibility on them. Our faith is ultimately placed in God but there is a danger that we focus on one issue or something that frustrates/angers/irritates us about politicians or a certain perspective and we ignore the bigger picture that the Gospel gives us. We need to be
careful that we do not lose faith in democracy, politicians and good wisdom. We need to value and pray for our own role in how we are governed and at the same time value and pray for our MPs. So, we need to pray for wisdom for our leaders and pray for us as the people of the United Kingdom that God will give us wisdom in these challenging times.
This item first appeared in Six Ways News to receive the magazine direct to your inbox contact the editor.
On the 13th of this month, which we know as October, but also call Black History Month, we will also be focussing on sanctuary. This will be the day, God willing, when we mark our intention to be a place that is open, welcoming, inclusive and intentional about providing a safe place for people seeking asylum and that this should be in the light of our overall approach. In the struggle against the oppressive apartheid system, Nelson Mandela headed up a rainbow coalition from people from different backgrounds. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr also stood side by side with people from backgrounds other than African American.
My point is that in order to welcome some we need to welcome all; in order to welcome all we need to welcome some. If we say we are serious about being welcoming and inclusive, this needs to apply across the board, but sometimes it is good and it is needful to concentrate on and redress imbalances that need addressing.
This is why there is no White History Month! A bias against and disregard for the history and achievements of people of colour needs to be countered.
This is why, as Christians we need to have churches like ours that declare themselves as Churches of Sanctuary to assert that it can be very hard for people seeking asylum to feel welcomed in society today.
Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt and the Old Testament is full of commands to welcome the stranger, the alien, the foreigner:
“Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19.33-34).
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself” Leviticus 19: 34
In a Church Members’ meeting earlier this year, we affirmed that we would do what we can to live up to the title of Church of Sanctuary”.
We are a church situated in a place where people from all over the world come to live and many of these people are seeking sanctuary, seeking safety because of war or persecution.
Because, as Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand said after the Christchurch massacre, “They are us”. Many of our church members are people who have sought safety here in the UK, or whose family have.
Because the God tells us again and again through Jesus and through the scriptures, that we must welcome the stranger.
What does it mean?
Being a Church of Sanctuary means that we do what we do already. We welcome, we include, we love. We see the humanity in all who come to us. We challenge hostility and hatred. We make space for new people. We are doing this already.
Already we have a Place of Welcome, ESOL classes, a foodbank.
Becoming a Church of Sanctuary means that we become a little bit more intentional about this and make sure that these core Christian values go right across the board.
We will be identifying a couple of people to oversee “Sanctuary” in our church.
On the 13 th October we aim to be formally recognised as a Church of Sanctuary and have Richard Reddie from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland coming to preach.
What can we learn from his life?
Read & Reflect: Read Mark 8:31-38.
Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian, who wrote, spoke and acted against the evil of the Nazi regime.
Bonhoeffer was executed by Nazis in 1945, having been put in a concentration camp. He believed strongly that we should imitate Christ and that the church must at all times be involved in opposing evil, even when this might prove so very costly.
Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”. He wrote and talked about suffering as we really follow Jesus – and Bonhoeffer did this to the extent of being killed as he followed Christ.
Respond: Hateful politics have a louder voice in our world today. What are we, as Christians, going to do about this?