This morning I gave a brief interview with the local BBC radio station where I was asked about how as a church we had helped someone, who had been on the streets for a couple of months, kit out an empty flat with the things necessary for him to live there.
I don’t mention this to highlight that I’ve been on the radio – my discomfort around the media is high. We were approached to say something – it fell to yours truly to represent the church community. As with most media interviews, the opportunities to paint the full picture aren’t really there. Its more an opportunity to draw a sketch.
Firstly, at St John’s we’re just starting to engage with what it is to serve our local community in this way. We are in no way brilliant at doing this – we’re just dipping our toe into this water. There are many amazing churches across the city and nation who do far more amazing things than us, who remain unsung and in the background.
Secondly we don’t do this for plaudits. I didn’t ask to be interviewed, but agreed to speak on behalf of St John’s when asked. We do this because we have experienced the love and power of Jesus at work in our lives, and because he says “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
We do it because of Jesus, and for Jesus – he is the reason. We do it because we have compassion for those in need. We are unapologetically Jesus centred in this. We do this because he has asked the church to participate in bringing heaven to earth – and in heaven no-one is homeless, no one lacks the basics of living, no-one lacks food to eat and a place to rest their head.
Ultimately the message I was hoping to convey is that the church is a place of compassion and service – to the world at large not just to our own. We love Lee because he is human and is worthy of love and dignity, not because he has a faith (although we rejoice that he does) and we would have done the same for anyone in those circumstances.
I hope that in what I conveyed it came across that this is not just a “fire and forget” initiative. We want to walk with him as he journeys back to “normal life” whatever that may be. We’ve asked someone in our team to walk with him. That person happens to be a psychiatric nurse and wasn’t chosen because of Lee’s mental state, but because the individual in question has a personal testimony of recovery. I was trying to convey that we’re supporting Lee with the best we have... because he deserves that.
Ultimately this story is about Lee. He found himself a flat. He arranged funding from the council. He initiated his road to recovery. We’ve just been privileged enough to play a part in that process as he starts it.
In hindsight would I have given that interview again? No. The more I think about it, the more I want to run away from the acclaim of people, and serve in in the dark, unnoticed. To allow us to been seen by the only audience that really matters – and even then, with grace, it doesn’t gain us anything except that final acclaim at the end of time... “Well done good and faithful servant.”