For the last 6 months St Michael’s garden has been the home of a camper who has had nowhere else to lay his head. He has lived alongside the church while his estate has grown month by month! Dog walkers have been careful not to tread on the tent or his possessions. The massing of the church and the maturity of the trees have protected him to a degree. An avid reader, our friend would be found on the Summertown Parade, book in hand, cloth bag on pavement in the hope of change.
We don’t know his ‘back-story’ (what a frivolous term that is); we obviously do not know anything about his future but we do know that the narrative of homelessness continues to blight the civilised society which we purport to live in. Abuse, brokenness, crime, violence and rejection is the common thread of many of the thousands of victims who have no home, no comfort, no support. Our friend is, we hope and pray, on the road to recovery. A room in a hostel might well lead to shared accommodation, a job, self-respect, perhaps even a taste of wellbeing? However, there are plenty of others who are not so fortunate, who are not able to re-pitch their tent.
I have returned from London this week having completed a Mental Health First Aid Course. This was a difficult, exhausting experience, reminding me of past encounters with some of the issues covered. I have become more resilient in my mental health thanks partly to developing relationships of love and trust. My ‘back-story’ is, I would imagine, not much different to those (at least 25% of the population) who have suffered in some way from mental ill health at some time in life. I have been able to metaphorically re-pitch my tent but never forgetting where I have come from and never giving up on my aspirations for the future. I hope that our humanity and our Christian faith will lead us to be present for those who are in need of re-pitching their tent, that we might care, listen and encourage. A quiet prayer is not enough for those who have lost their physical, spiritual or psychological home. We need to act upon the scandal of the dispossessed. We need to become tent makers, providing shelter and safety. Who’s in?
For more information about mental health in the context of parish life, you might want to read, Disturbed by Mind & Spirit, Mental Health and healing in Parish Ministry, (Continuum-Mowbray), written by Gavin & Jo Knight.
For news about the parish and the readings for this week, please click here.