SHELTER

SHELTER

It’s been a week of SHELTERS. Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’ tents are going to the migrant camp at Calais, my church are organising a sponsored sleep-out for the winter night-shelter, and we heard the terrible news that Anchor House, our last remaining emergency hostel in Newham faces partial closure. A week to focus on shelter and the lack of it. It also happens that the Jewish festival of Shavout falls this week. It marks the start of Harvest and is the time when Jewish families make temporary shelters in their homes and synagogues and sleep in them for a week. It’s is a double-edged festival; celebrating God’s provision and remembering those living in exile. Together these offer a timely reminder. Adequate shelter is a human right. How terrible then when faced with a humanitarian crisis of those in exile (or homeless on our own streets) our leaders and media dehumanise them as ‘floods’ and ‘swarms’. But while international institutions argue over quotas, apportioning blame and encouraging a draw-bridge mentality, all across the world individuals and local communities reflect on what shelter means and reach out in charity, opening homes and churches, cooking meals, sending donations, organising campaigns. Thanking and interceding. Remembering and acting. Some are drawn by Jesus’ words, in Matthew 25: 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’Tim Schmalz’s beautiful sculpture of Jesus (pictured) asks the question how can we pass by a homeless man on Saturday and worship one on...
Get a Grip on Power

Get a Grip on Power

Mercy Amba Oduyoye speaks of the Ghanaian Akan idea of power: ‘Mo moyen nkuta wiase se kosua,’ meaning ‘hold the world gently in your hands like an egg’. We need to hold power in our worlds with the same grasp we would use for a fragile egg: neither crushing it by holding on too tightly, nor dropping it by our indifference or irresponsibility. Both are a misuse of power. Both end in a broken egg! Which is your default? Are you a crusher or a dropper? What is power? Sociologist Max Weber defined it as Macht -‘The probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his [or her] own will despite resistance’. That doesn’t sound entirely positive; but it’s a definition that most boardrooms, staffrooms and playgrounds would recognise. Power plays are far from child’s play. Perhaps your life is marked by the way others have exercised their power? Sometimes the negative ways we’ve experienced power in the past make us resistant to taking up positions of influence ourselves – that can be equally damaging. The Christian feminist writer bell hooks describes a very different idea of power from Weber’s Macht. It’s the kind of power that Jesus modelled, and, she argues, the only legitimate power that his followers should aspire to: the power to reject the notions of the powerful; the power of telling subversive stories and the power to lift another person up. These are challenging and helpful ways to assess whether we’ve really grasped the power within our reach....