Hospitality to the stranger

Rt. Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham
Rt. Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham

Driving the roads of Sussex at present, I pass lots of new housing, freshly occupied or under construction, some ready and waiting for the first occupants to move in.

Additional residents must be good news for local shops now stocked with decorations and 'seasonal fare' to help us celebrate Christmas and the birth of a baby in a stable because his parents could find nowhere else.

Home from my travels, the 'inbox' is full of emails concerning responses to questions of accommodation and provision of space to live from all around the world.

These include issues as complex and diverse as the Syrian refugee crisis, unaccompanied children, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in rural areas.

There seem to be countless people for whom finding accommodation is presently a real problem.

Of course, there is no single, simple solution. But our attitude is important and reflects on us all as a society.

Much of Sussex is very beautiful, much is very historic, and much of it provides unique and rewarding views, landscapes and walks. We must exercise care about how we build to house those who, for all kinds of reasons, need to find accommodation and make a home here.

There is a difference between exercising due care for our environment and declining to meet the needs of others by refusing to make space for them. The costs of a home here in Sussex are surely not paid to isolate ourselves from the needs of others or purchase a right to turn them away.

One of the most attractive things about any community is the hospitality and welcome it offers to the stranger.

That is not always easy, but as we begin to draw near once again to Advent and then Christmas itself, it is the perfect time to consider our own attitude to those in need of accommodation.

May we learn more of what it means to offer and receive hospitality, and to respond with grace and generosity towards those in need.

Faith Matters:

Off the Fence: There are a number of ways to get involved with issues such as housing and homelessness. One such charity is Off The Fence - a Brighton-based charity committed to making a real difference in the lives of many that are ‘most at risk’ in our community. They are engaged in life-saving support for the homeless; supporting women, restoring dignity; supporting schools in Brighton & Hove and showing God’s love in action.

As winter draws in, their work becomes even more vital. To find out more, including how to support them, see: http://www.offthefence.org.uk/

Cathedral Lights:

Why not mark the beginning of the advent season with the Christmas Lights switch on at the Chichester Cathedral Green? The celebrations will include the community choir and all are welcome. Thursday 24th November from 6.20-7.30pm.