Cliffs breaking through the haze and a narrowing sea,
Soon will my eager gaze have sight of thee – England, the
lovelier now for absence long Soon shall I see your brow,
hear a lark’s song.

Heart, curb thy beating – there!
Channel cliffs glow, Eddystone, Plymouth, where
Drake mounts The Hoe!
Red of the Devon loam, green of the hills, April! – and I am
home, God, my heart thrills!

Far have I travelled and great beauty seen, But, oh, out of England, is anywhere green?
Thankful and thankful again
As never before, One of
those Englishmen
Comes to his shore.

I found this poem amongst my father’s papers, in his handwriting and possibly mirroring his own homecoming after five years away during WW2. Other Homecomings may be a return to the  family home at the end of a university term; to your own home after a hospital stay, to your ‘home -base’ or ‘home country’ – the parable of The Prodigal Son – or even to somewhere you had     always assumed would be home, as in ‘Homecoming : Voices of the Windrush Generation’ by Colin Grant. Homecoming may also refer to the relief of finding your niche in life or a welcoming church.

So many different interpretations of the word Home come to mind: some emotional, but always evocative depending on your feelings and circumstances. When I was a student Home- Home always referred to my parents’ house; living in India expatriates used to refer to their country of origin as Home-Home. Nostalgia (or nausea, depending on your attitude!) may be evoked with old songs such as ‘Home, Sweet Home’ or ‘Home on the Range’.

Home may conjure up security, comfort, a sense of belonging; the launchpad for adventures elsewhere; somewhere you are relieved to return to and truly ‘be yourself’. It may involve lots of other people or just the tranquillity of being alone and undisturbed by others. Hopefully our lives in the Church mirror these more positive concepts.

However, for some people Home may be hell on earth, suggesting tensions, coercion, abuse, fear, lack of personal safety or loss of control of one’s life or even a reminder that they do not have a home. Their Home has been repossessed or they have found themselves on the street, thus are Homeless in our country or driven out of their own countries, becoming refugees and asylum seekers in search of a New Home.

A book I have just finished encapsulates so many of these concepts: a Syrian family’s need to leave Aleppo and the challenges of finding their way to safety following their nightmare travels through Europe and ultimately the chance of a real home and work as bee-keepers in the UK. It’s a shattering and realistic read, but an ultimately uplifting one: ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ by Christy Lefteri.

Jan Bartlett