Welcoming Ben

Ben 1601Ben 1601We have a new addition to our family. Today Ben arrived. He is a 3 year old Spaniel cross, with jet black hair and lovely sweet manner. I can see already that he is intelligent, a quick learner and will do anything for a food related bribe! He was found as a stray and there have been two previous attempts to re-home, both of which failed because he is boisterous, he will need attention – although as I type he seems quite happy lying in his bed under the stairs waiting for me to move out of the study. So we know we have taken on a challenge, it will not be fair on Ben for us to give up on him or for us not to give him the attention he needs. Already we are making adjustments to some of our plans and some of our routines, to take Ben into account and ensure that he feels welcome with us. It’s an enormous responsibility!

We are at that period in the Christian year where we hear about Jesus calling people to be with him, to become part of a new family, being made welcome in God’s kingdom. It calls for a change in routine, in expectations, in outlook. Jesus comes from God and is made welcome in some homes but not in others, is he made welcome in ours? Are we prepared to change our plans, our routines, because Jesus has come into our lives and calls us to think differently and follow faithfully? When we welcome a new follower of Jesus into our nice tight knit Christian Family are we prepared to make the adjustments that will make each person truly welcome for who they are – or are we expecting others to just fit into our nice comfortable routines?

I can hear Ben beginning to stir, perhaps he needs a bit of attention before I have some dinner. I can hear Jesus sniffing around our world, perhaps he needs a bit of attention as well.

Be blessed

Craig

Sanctuary

Our summer news has been dominated by swarms of marauding migrants, threatening our standard of living and social infrastructure. Such is the threat that there have been calls to bring in the Army, to create new detention centres, to speed up deportation procedures. There has been outcry against Songs of Praise for wasting licence payers money by filming at St. Michaels Church in the makeshift camp outside Calais known as  “The Jungle”. And now we are faced with the images of Aylan Gurdi’s little body washed up on the seashore. Perhaps that image will change the rhetoric, but the great tragedy is that when you look beyond the rhetoric the numbers of migrants coming to this country are tiny compared to those faced by the countries that surround Syria or border the Mediterranean Sea and yet this need to de-humanise people seeking a better life for themselves and their families is so high on our political and media agenda.

At the heart of these events are individual human stories of aspiration, achievement, adventure – stories that in other contexts we would want to celebrate. But the moment we de-humanise, we also remove our ability to empathise, encourage, welcome and in doing so we lose some of the basic facets humanity. The bible encourages welcome; whether in Leviticus, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself” [19:34] or on the Day of Judgement, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”, [Matt 25:35] or in early church “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” [Heb 13:2]. Many who de-humanise migrants, are also those who call for Christian Values to return to our country, they seem to have missed the value of welcoming strangers in our midst and in doing so engaging with our own humanity.

We talk about churches as places of Sanctuary, and Coventry is a City of Sanctuary, an organisation I’m pleased to belong to and encourage. We look to find ways to welcome those who seek a new beginning, who invest in their children whilst facing great risks, hardship, discrimination and suspicion. We look to celebrate the skills and insights that peoples stories reveal and in doing so we learn the human story behind scaremongering headlines. This month I hope to share some of those stories as we mark Racial Justice Sunday at St. Columba’s on 6th September and at Stoke Chapel and Hocking Road, Wyken on 13th September and then give thanks for the Harvest on the 20th and 27th September. I look forward to doing so with you.

Be blessed, Craig

Entertaining Angels


I’ve just finished a book called “Winter in Madrid” It is based in Madrid during 1941 and deals with the repercussions of the Spanish Civil War, it’s brutality and ruthless cruelty hidden by slow communications, diplomatic niceties and the passage of time. Today images from Iran are twittering and you-tubing around the world – in particular the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, shot by a rooftop sniper as she watched/participated in peaceful protests against the Government. (Her involvement differs depending upon the news source as does the allegation that she was shot by government backed militia). Last week at Minister Summer School we spend one session looking at the story in Judges where Jael kills Sisera with a tent peg through his head. 

 

It is a cruel hard world that we live in, yet we are fortunate enough to live in a relatively, stable, peaceful, law-abiding part of it;  free to worship as we want; to engage in whatever political activity we want to engage in; to have the back up of a benefit system when we fall on economic hardship and a legal and political system that whilst by no means perfect is not as corrupt as some would make out. We also live in a country that throughout history has had a reputation of accepting the refugee into our community and using their skills to enhance our own society – it is a part of our heritage of which many of us are immensely proud. It is also part of the biblical heritage – whether in Deuteronomy reminding the people that God “loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing (Deut 10:19); or Jesus telling a good news story about a hated Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37); or Paul’s reminder that “there is no longer Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28); or Hebrews prompting, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2)

 

Coventry is blessed with people from many nations, many have come away from places where they are not free to worship, to engage in politics or to do more than scrape a living. No doubt some come to take advantage of our good nature, but most come to make a better life for themselves and their families and are prepared to work hard to do so – I hope our instinct is to welcome, you never know we may be entertaining angels.

 

And talking of angels, Neda Agha-Soltan, has become known as the Angel of Freedom, her name means Voice and in her death the cry for freedom for all peoples has reverberated around the world – we must listen for the voice of angels.

 

Be Blessed

 

Craig