The Minister's Letter

 

At the recent funeral of Pauline Edwards we were told she had only lived in two houses during her entire life.  I have never lived in a house for more than five years as my father was in the RAF and I have been an itinerant Methodist Presbyter.  I have moved nineteen times at a rough count.  Whether you have lived in one place or many gives you a different perspective on life.  Especially in my first appointment in Cumbria, and my last in Devon, people were very rooted in their community and had lived there for many generations.  There was a strong sense of community and belonging, and an identification with the place and with the land.  On the other hand I have enjoyed a sense of adventure as I have moved on to new horizons, getting to know new communities and places all over the UK, and as far as Singapore, and now Malvern!

To be on the move from choice is one thing, but to be forced from your home where you have deep roots is another.  War, disaster and economic need make many people into unwilling migrants and refugees.  We cannot imagine the horrors of war, hunger and suffering which drive people from their cherished homes.  We remember that Jesus was a refugee as a child, fleeing the brutality of Herod, and we hear the promise given to the Prophets that God will bring the exiles home.  Jesus promises that in his Father's house are many rooms, and he has gone to prepare a place for each one of us.  The compassion of God for the homeless, the exile and the refugee must be our concern too as the people of God.  We are called to be a community of welcome, hospitality and refuge, so that all may find a home.

Malvern is to receive its first refugee family from the Middle East by the end of June. ‘Malvern Welcomes’ has secured a house and a family is allocated by the United Nations from a Lebanese refugee camp.  Fund raising is ongoing as this family will need clothes, transport, furniture, and translators.  Lansdowne Crescent has adopted ‘Malvern Welcomes’ as our Church Outreach Project, and we are asking every group and meeting to consider how we might fund-raise for this cause.  I wonder if Somers Park Avenue and Upper Welland would be willing to do their bit?

The money we can raise is important, but more important will be the welcome we offer.  This family will have been through hell, so we will want to give them a gentle and loving welcome without overwhelming them.

The letter to the Hebrews tells us that when we show hospitality to strangers it is possible we may be unconsciously welcoming angels, just as Abraham and Sarah did. Their generous welcome to three strangers brought them huge blessing, not least of which was a son, Isaac, in their old age.  From that blessing come all the children of Abraham, Jew, Moslem and Christian.  Abraham and Sarah's open welcome eventually brought Jesus into the world and for the world.  What blessings might we enjoy by showing our love to strangers, thus bringing Jesus afresh into our world?

 

With every blessing,

            Nigel