‘Home’ is at the heart of faith and human longing. We know when we feel ‘at home’ and we know what it’s like to be homesick and to have a longing for home. Home is more than shelter, and a roof over our heads; home is core to our identity and belonging; it is relationship and community as much as our postal address and its four walls. We are homemakers and continually create an environment to live in and share with others.
Meanwhile, however settled, and stable our lives (and many lives are far from settled or stable) our longing for ‘home’ and our restlessness endures: ‘home’ is still something we are looking for. It isn’t surprising then that ‘home’ is such a central metaphor of faith and an image of the life of the church: Jesus assures his frightened and confused followers that he will go ahead of them to prepare a place (a ‘home’) for them (John 14.2-3); and he is recognised as the life of God who lives(makes his home) amongst us (John 1.14). The church is the ‘oikos’ (household) of faith, an inclusive community where all are welcomed.
It is wonderful to have an issue of Connections devoted to this rich and universal theme, as this gives an opportunity to draw together reflections on a number of initiatives within the Benefice that all seem to express ‘home’ in some way.
Cotham and Redland Welcome: the Community Sponsorship scheme is seeking to create ‘A Home Here’ for a displaced Syrian refugee family. Although the provision of a house in BS6 is core to the aims of the project, the members of the group are working hard to become a community of welcome who will enable the family to begin to feel at home in our neighbourhood through practical support and friendship. The need for such support is especially pronounced for those for whom ‘home’ has become both a place of danger and something they have lost. We also look forward to the fruition of this project that will enable us to experience our home in a new way by sharing it with others and receiving their story and their lives.
Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter: homelessness is one of the most visible challenges of our city, including in our otherwise largely prosperous parishes. It is wonderful therefore that we are able to participate as volunteers and hosts in this winter’s Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter scheme. Although only tackling the tip of the iceberg of the problem we are demonstrating our conviction that the church should be a place of hospitality for all, and a refuge for the most vulnerable. We also recognise that for those we host this scheme can provide a stepping stone of stability and support that enables a way out of the vicious cycles of homelessness.
Eco-Church: more globally we are deepening our awareness that human action is making the Earth increasingly inhospitable to many forms of life, including increasingly human life. We are seeking to express our deepening awareness in a growing commitment to ‘eco-discipleship’ – to witnessing for life, changing our priorities and campaigning for meaningful change and action. Our ‘home’ is God’s good creation; an ecosystem where we can only live by recognising that we share that home inter-dependently with all creatures.
‘Home from home’: Hospitality is central to our expression of mission as churches – we are seeking to make our churches more welcoming, and it has been good to express this in recent weeks by offering on the street hospitality to new and returning students