Sunday 2 December 2012
This morning, on the day I write this there are 29 people in church. Only two of us are taking part in Morning Prayer, the others have come in out of the cold to sit, to warm up, or to try and sleep after a night on the streets. In the middle of the service I hear someone shouting. I go over to try and calm the situation down. “Look,” he says, “I don’t want to disturb anyone, I respect this place, but I want you to know I have given my life for this country, I served in the army for 11 years, I risked my life in Afghanistan for all of you lot, my life is shattered. So listen!” I listen, he calms down, I go back to Morning Prayer. I don’t know where he will go, for now he sleeps. I hope…
Again and again I realise there is no such thing as “the homeless” there are only people each with their own unique story to tell – like Sophie who finally managed to leave a violent relationship and slowly, with the support of the Connection, is rebuilding her life and sense of self-worth; or Linda who, supported by The Connection, has left drinking behind, she is brilliant, tough, honest and wise, and talks so much common sense; or Macca who wants to be a football coach and has incredible motivation but is ashamed that his friends may discover he is homeless; or Derek who keeps on asking me about the meaning of atonement, and John who paints the most beautiful pictures. And there is Ali who has lived in the UK for 17 years and is still waiting for immigration status and cannot work – all night he walks the streets, rides in buses, tries to keep warm in internet cafés until they ask him to leave. Philip who is homeless himself, was lent a camera and has documented his experiences on the railings of St Martin’s and on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p011v239
It is powerful stuff. It could be any one of us.
Please give generously to this year’s Radio 4 St Martin-in-the-Fields Christmas Appeal and help rebuild hope in real people’s lives. Put your donation in a red envelope, donate a brick downstairs in St Martin’s foyer or phone 0800 082 8284.
Revd Richard Carter