One of the nice things about being involved in a homeless shelter are the amazing people you meet who want to help. As I was looking through various Facebook posts leading up to Easter, I can across one of our local church ministers who wanted to support Sanctuary. His daily ‘ramblings’ as he called them, during Holy Week, were small, uplifting, video snippets where he challenged people to think of others and to ask for donations towards Sanctuary. They were often funny (now I know what is in Church Times) but always thought provoking. I asked him if he would share with us his story – and here it is:
Our prayers from St George’s are with you all at present in this worldwide crisis. The beauty of prayer is that we can do this anywhere and at any time. God listens and answers (although often not in the timespan we ask for!). This was brought home to me and other clergy around the UK, when during the recent ‘lockdown’ our Archbishops’ made the decision (quite understandably) that Churches could not open, not even for clergy with private prayer. Knowing this would mean Holy Week and Easter not in Church, I quickly prayed for some inspiration for Holy Week to still feel ‘different and special’ to any other week of the year. I kept thinking about the isolation and wilderness moments of Lent and then Holy Week, and this kept drawing me to look out the window at my garden (which I feel very blessed to have in these times of isolation). I kept thinking about the tents I have passed in random places round Gravesend, and when I have seen people sleeping in shop doorways. How can people be in self-isolation when they have no home to go to?
I was under no illusions that sleeping in a tent in my garden for the 7 nights of Holy Week would only give me a 0.1% experience of what it must be like to be homeless (I still needed to go in to the house during the day to work, eat and not neglect my family!). However, I did feel I could put this small insight in to good use. I have been overwhelmed at the response via Facebook and how word has travelled (all donations were online so no-one was at risk). I set myself a target of £2,000 in 10 days and I am thrilled to say this has been reached, so on behalf of St George’s please accept this as a gift to you all in this terrible crisis.
As for the experience itself, I was in the tent each night from 10.30pm to 7.30am. It was a tent I’d never used before so was slightly concerned it might not last the week (thankfully I was blessed with no wind or rain) and I could only really stretch out if I laid diagonally in it! I’d shared on a Facebook post I’d only have a sleeping bag with me and no ‘mod cons’. Some nights were a lot colder than others (especially the ones where I could see my own breath quite clearly!). It did make for a very prayerful space though as I contemplated the isolation and darker moments of Holy Week. However, the Easter joy shone through every morning as I woke to sunshine and the birds singing. I’m not sure I would have viewed it this way if this was the only permanent shelter I had. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this. The photo of me at the start of this article is at the end of the experience (therefore looking a lot cleaner!) on the beautiful sunshine of Easter morning.
Revd Jim Fletcher (Rector, St George’s)
Thank you, Jim. Do follow Jim on his facebook page – he’s intimated he might so some more ramblings. Let’s hope so.