October 31st, 2014
Blessings for a new season
It was with great pleasure that we were invited to take part in two local occasions this week with two of our close working partners.
Last Friday, I joined volunteers, advocacy workers and venues who, like us here at the Hurtado Jesuit Centre, are part of GrowTH. We gathered to mark the start this weekend of this year’s night shelters in Tower Hamlets and prayed for all the guests, volunteers and churches who will be part of the GrowTH community over the next months. We asked for blessings especially for those locally who are homeless now and need places to move into, sustainable jobs to secure and positive relationships to thrive in.
On Tuesday night, we were alongside colleagues from the newly named Centre for Theology and Community (CTC), who have just moved into new offices at St George-in-the-East, close by to us at the top of Wapping Lane. CTC were celebrating 10 years of their work enabling churches to be part of the transformation of their neighbourhoods through community organising, theological reflection and prayer. We heard stories of fresh hope and prayed for new seeds to be sown for future projects.
This weekend of All Saints and All Souls in the Christian calendar was once – in the ‘Old’ calendar – a time to celebrate the plenty of the harvest and the turn towards the uncertainty of winter. Traditionally in times gone past, as the darker nights closed in, families and communities would plan a homecoming, gather in the resources they needed to survive the winter, make sure the preserves were ready and pray for survival during the tough cold months ahead. This time of year, at the boundary of the seasons, was for facing both light and dark.
These days, and perhaps as city dwellers with easy access to supermarkets and public transport, we may have lost such a keen sense of what it means to prepare for the discomfort of winter. Yet, as people here in Tower Hamlets who accompany those who, either as asylum seekers experiencing destitution, individuals facing homelessness or church members crippled with debt from payday loans, we acknowledge the insecurity, fear and anxiety that the winter season can bring.
So we count our blessings: to part of a community of people who have dedicated themselves to the service of others who in hard times are being patient in their search for settled accommodation, sustaining their release from addiction or persisting in efforts to break the hold of violence in their neighbourhoods. And during hard times, we can also acknowledge the fruit of the harvest we have already been given: the joy of working together, the resources that we can share with others, music and food to enjoy…. And we turn in faith to God and to one another for solidarity as we both work for justice and find plenty of times to sing and celebrate together.
Kate Monkhouse is Centre Manager at the Hurtado Jesuit Centre