Being Together This Advent
- Archbishop Phillip Aspinall’s Advent 2020 message: the sustaining power of memory and hope
- Memory, presence and hope
- One quiet night when love was born
- Bishop Jeremy Greaves’ Advent 2020 message: a season for spiritual stocktaking
- Advent serendipity
- Q&A with trailblazing UQ science graduate, Cursillo member, writer and centenarian parishioner, Margaret Thurgood
- Prayer Tree helps students to practise peacemaking
- Margaret’s musings: spiritual stocktaking
- Bishop John Roundhill’s Advent 2020 message: preparing for the prince of peace
- Bishop Cam Venables’ Advent 2020 message: making room in the inn
At the request of anglican focus, I have summarised how our church, the Parish of Maroochydore, will be ‘making room in the inn’ this Advent for people living on the margins, especially people who are experiencing homelessness and people struggling with their mental health.
On Wednesday nights our church hosts a community meal for people who are homeless or feeling isolated or lonely. On Wednesday 23 December we will host our final community meal for the year. It will be a special sit-down Christmas feast with ham, chicken and roast vegetables and pavlova and cheesecake served at tables decorated with tablecloths and Christmas ornaments. Each guest will be given Christmas gifts, including home-baked treats (presented with a Christmas motif and a loving incarnational message) to take away and a bottle and keep-cup to help people stay hydrated during the hot summer months. The meal will be followed by our usual ‘Food for Thought’ session, during which I will share message of Hope for Christmas.
As many people who come to our community meal struggle with mental health challenges or experience homelessness, they are often isolated from their families. For this reason, it is so important that we provide an atmosphere that is as warm and family-like as possible. This is why the hand-baked goodies, familiar welcome and other homely touches are so vital.
One of the most important ways that we will continue to welcome people to our inn is by greeting and introducing community meal guests by name, just as God calls each of us by name. People’s faces light up when they are welcomed by name, as doing so affirms their God-given dignity and uniqueness.
Building relationship and trust with the people who sleep on our church grounds and come to our community meals enriches our whole community. Recently, one of our community meal guests, Ron, shared some great news with us. Ron was regularly sleeping on our church grounds at night, knowing that he was welcomed and safe here. In the mornings, he would come in for a cuppa and some brekkie. One morning he shared with us that he had applied for government housing and was anxiously awaiting the outcome of his application. A few days later, Ron told us the wonderful news that his application for a home had been approved. We were absolutely thrilled for Ron.
During Advent we have also been continuing our increasingly popular pavement chalk art, which we commenced outside our church early in the COVID-19 period (when meals needed to be served take-away style) so people continued to feel welcomed. These started off as someone sitting on the ground ‘being with’ people in their circumstances, as scribblings invited interaction with our community meal friends. One Advent chalk art work consisted of four sections (inspired by the four liturgical wreath candles), representing hope (symbolised by a star shining light into the darkness), peace (symbolised by a dove), joy (symbolised by Mary singing for joy with her baby) and love (symbolised by diverse people gathered around Jesus, as he came for all and not just for those who have a home and are well-healed and well).
Jesus, the king of kings, was born in the humble mess of a stable. The first Christmas centred around a soon-to-be refugee family, who fled political persecution and found safety in Egypt, after the very young mother had given birth in a stable because she was away from family support and had nowhere else to labour. So, during the Advent season, I ask myself, “How do we identify people who need a home and make room for them in the inn of our hearts?”Jump to next article