Saturday, 5 March 2011

Tough on charity, tough on the causes of charity?

Further to the last post, and as promised, a few further reflections on the Westminster issue may be found on the Guardian website

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Works of mercy

Christ of the Breadlines (1950) by Fritz Eichenberg

Most Monday evenings last semester, the college's Frassati Society (including most of the members of the House community) would take flasks of tea and coffee, sandwiches, cakes, and fruit out to the homeless of the local area. We tried Twickenham, Richmond, Kingston and Hammersmith on various occasions - some of them several times. Most of the time, we never met with much 'success' (which, had we been sure there was noone in the area who would have appreciated our meagre offerings, we'd have of course been delighted by). But as the term went on, more and more people joined in. The first time, fittingly on the Feast of St Vincent de Paul (St Mary's was founded by the Vincentians), two people went out. This steadily grew week on week, peaking once at about fourteen, though there were normally eight or nine, and never the same group each week. After traipsing around our chosen location for thirty or forty minutes, we'd end up in a pub.

This semester, however, we tried a change of tack. Back in January, two members of the House, Dan and Shaun, decided to turn up one afternoon at the Missionaries of Charity's community in Lambeth to find out what we might usefully do with and for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's Sisters. Since then, a group has gone out each week on a Monday night to help the Sisters with their 'soup run' to Spitalfields and Victoria, taking tea, soup, sandwiches, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, biscuits, clothes and conversation to those who feel in need of them. (And dozens upon dozens, in one of the world's richest cities, sadly do).

All of which is a preamble to noting the sad fact that Westminster council is currently proposing both a) to ban rough sleeping in a large area around Victoria; and b) to outlaw giving out free refreshments there too. This would, of course, criminalize the wonderful work which the MCs - and a large number of other groups - are doing there (and with which we, in our meagre and inadequate way, are privileged to help). It would also, more importantly, further displace the large number of vulnerable people for whom Victoria is something like a 'home'. All in all, it sounds a terrible idea - and one which I'll no doubt be writing more about in due course.

But until then, I'll leave you with today's Evening Standard's article on the controversy. Two members of the community, along with a further friend of the house, were out helping the Sisters last night, when the Standard's journalist came to visit - and one of them, Dennis, was interviewed.

Sometimes, I have to admit, I'm very proud of our students.

Full House

The major news of the last few months is that the House is now full for this year. So, as originally intended, the community is now eight strong. As you would expect, with new people joining it takes a while for everyone to adapt (and rearrange who has which shelf in the fridge), but we seem now to have settled back down into our usual routine.

Workwise, everyone is (and should be) busier than last semester - especially our two third year students - and it's been more difficult to find times properly to come together as a whole community every week. But community nights on Thursday are continuing nonetheless (with prayer, scripture sharing and a communal meal) - as also are morning prayer (for those who are up) and evening prayer (for those who are in) every week day.

Lent will, of course, soon be upon us. We've nothing yet planned to rival our series of Advent talks in December, but there'll be plenty going in the chaplaincy, so we'll not go short of spiritual sustenance.

While things have been much quieter at the House this semester in terms of 'events' (one birthday party excepted), we've not been wholly idle of an evening... on which, more later!