Church Link March 2016
This month we hear from Chris Hibbs, chaplain at Alabaré's Andrew House project in Clevedon, who discusses the importance of building Church Links within our communities. What we are looking for is more than just links and points of connection, important though these are. The hope is for a mutual relationship that is shaped both by people within the Church communities and the people within Alabaré. This relationship will suit the context in which the relationship is forged. It will hopefully be characterised by welcome, hospitality, prayer and the practicalities that engender inclusion so that living life in all its fullness is possible. We will shortly be contacting local churches to build on these relationships - do look out for the mailing or let us know if you would like to be included on our mailing list.
The Emmaus Easter story from Luke’s Gospel has been at the forefront of our recent work to reignite the Alabaré Emmaus Community. Being open to the other, sharing story, listening to the scriptures, sharing hospitality and then acting have been key features of this work. And through engaging with one another in this way we have encountered the presence of the risen Christ.
With blessings at this time of Easter.
Alabaré Christian Care & Support
At Easter the Christian Church remembers the gift of God displayed in Jesus’s death on a cross and resurrection. It steps up a gear with extra and more solemn and celebratory services and public displays of faith. It has even managed to keep the big shops shut on Easter Day. As a chaplain to an Alabaré home based in a fairly small and contained community, one of my duties will be to help the residents of Andrew House access what they can of the events going on around them in the town at this time.
It is my privilege to have been asked by the clergy of Churches Together in Clevedon to work with the Alabaré Chaplaincy Service in meeting the spiritual needs of Andrew House so we already have a strong link with the Christian community and anyone arriving at a church in Clevedon will not need to explain their address. We are regularly remembered in the prayers of the Churches and individuals and are on the receiving end of financial support, such is the regard with which the service provided is held.
When speaking into troubled lives, I try to remember that not every one wants a ‘religious’ answer, but very few don’t want something that reflects acceptance and a non-sentimental love. Reflecting the kind of love shown on the cross is not sentimental. Some of those I talk to have felt as if they have been to Hell in their addiction and still suffer the trauma of the after-effects. It is wonderful to be able to tell them that if they choose to explore the Christian community in the town that they will receive a welcome and support. For those who explore the God who is worshipped in those places they find something even more satisfying.
Sometimes in the Christian community, there are those who will impose their own needs on the vulnerable and part of my work is to educate the well-meaning that their life-styles are not uniquely Christian and our residents may need help in understanding how the gospel story works in their situation. We don’t need to try to make them live like us. They need the Holy Spirit, who will work all changes required. As members of the Churches can reflect, unconditional love is in their openness to those who don’t know which page we’re on or whether it’s time to throw our hands in the air (both metaphorically and literally!).
In Clevedon, the residents and former residents of Andrew House can be found working on voluntary work, including church projects and in the wider community. The life rescued from addiction grasps new life with both hands. The time of early recovery is one of extreme vulnerability and uncertainty, so for those of us providing support, both professional and through volunteering, we have the grave responsibility of enabling our clients to find not only stability with their daily living practices, but finding a truly liberating spiritual awakening, which will allow them to live to the full potential that God intended.
It seems to me that there is no greater thing than God hanging on a cross for us and going on to conquer Death. There is no greater thing than for all God’s people, not just chaplains, to reflect the wonder of that to those who have felt utterly abandoned and without hope.
Some Questions to Reflect on:
- Does my church reflect the depth of love shown in the cross?
- Can we reflect that love to those who don’t ‘do church’?
- How much practical love does my church show to the marginalised and those without hope? If it is a lot, can you help other churches who are struggling?
Bible Readings to Reflect on:
- 1 Timothy 1 v12-17 - Paul explains his reaction to the Love shown to him
- Matthew 23 v23 – 24 - A warning to those who only observe religious ritual
- Psalm 10 v17-18 - Here is God’s heart
- Chaplains rely on continual prayer support. I thank God for the faithful prayers of many.
- Our Service Users face many obstacles in a world that values only a narrow definition of success. Let us pray for them to face the world as it is and for those who set God-absent standards for others.
- For our staff who seek to reflect the Christian ethos of Alabaré often under pressure from the circumstances of those they support, let is pray for patience and wisdom.
- For the wider church and communities around out services, let us pray for acceptance and support.