The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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February 2018

The Vicar writes

Jeremy Fletcher

Jewish, Christian and Muslim Ministers in this part of North London meet regularly in an Interfaith Forum. We discuss a text, share our (often amusing) failures, and talk about matters of current concern. Having grown up in the multi faith city of Bradford, it is a joy to work in this environment.

I write this having just returned from the latest meeting of the Forum. We welcomed the Leader of Camden Council, Georgia Gould, who spent two hours with us. She was engaging, honest, and very affirming of the role played by faith communities in a borough where 120 languages are spoken. Camden Council has welcomed the largest number of refugees under the Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), and  she said that the Council would do all it could, within reason, to assist Community Sponsors like Hampstead Parish Church and Churches Together. Councils have less discretionary monies to spend, but Camden has already been of great assistance to us.

When talking about homelessness Councillor Gould immediately referred to C4WS. Round the table were three churches who hosted guests this winter (on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays). Every statistic shows that homelessness is on the increase, and our borough has a very high percentage of people who live in private rented accommodation, which is the least secure means of being housed. Rents can simply be raised, and even those in work can find themselves with no accommodation very quickly indeed.

Elsewhere in this magazine are the testimonies of those who volunteered in HPC’s on Saturday nights. I was a small cog in a complex machine, and I enjoyed sleeping in the crypt directly underneath the altar a few times. At the 8.00 Eucharist each day I prayed for those who were having breakfast directly below me. Others have said what a humbling and enriching experience it was to share food and conversation with people coping with a devastating situation. Councillor Gould commented that she was taken aback by the number of homeless people who were in work.

This is a complex matter, and I’m thrilled that we have been able to play a very small part in providing warmth, welcome, food and shelter to a small number of people. I watched friendships developing, and simple human hospitality and service in action. I’m sure that all of us involved will now have a deeper knowledge of and concern for the year-round work of C4WS, and the other fourteen church-based homelessness organisations in London. The Diocese is making homelessness the focus of its Lent Appeal. Its very close to home for us now.

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