The sun was up and the rain had stopped and the mobile went off with a call from BBC Radio Devon on time at 7.10am ‘So Bishop how do you feel having slept out last night?’
I have to admit I felt slightly stiff and was glad I could now go home for a shower and breakfast before attending a confirmation service at 11am. I know that sleeping out for YMCA #SleepEasy17 was not about the real rough sleeping experience it was about raising the profile for the work of YMCA Exeter and about seeking to find space to see something from a different angle.
BBC Radio Devon went on to ask if it was the still appropriate to give something up and suffer during lent. For me lent is not about giving things up to suffer but rather to give something up to find time to reflect on God and on humanity and maybe hear that whisper of the Holy Spirit. And there at 3am in the morning as the rain did its worse I reflected on the conversations of the evening – how anxious people had felt about the experience, the stories of why people were there, how people of all ages had come to raise the profile of the issues of homelessness and how easy it is for us to see the homeless as anonymous people, invisible and not people who are known by name.
Then this morning at 11am as part of the confirmation service we were reminded that ‘God has called us by name and has made us his own’
Each year St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square holds a service in memory of the homeless men and women who have died during the past year. Hymns and prayers are interspersed with reading of the names of those who have died. One such service included the following prayer and leading into the list of those who had died:
“God says, I have called you by your name, and you are mine”
God of love, call me by my name.
Pronounce its syllables with care.
Speak my full name,
The name the world knows me by.
Speak my private names,
Known only to my friends, my lovers, myself.
You know me from my beginning to my end.
Speak my name, and make me yours forever.
Then followed the names of the homeless who had died on the streets of the city.
[Order of Service in “Worship Live” Stainer and Bell, No 25, Spring 2003]
For those of us to who know a God to whom we are known let us pray for wisdom so we may know how to love with that generous love of God those whose names we know and those whose names are only known by God.
P.S also pray for Revd Gary Deighton who has 6 weeks to go sleeping out in Paignton. He is hoping to raise money for Shekinah Mission, the Christian charity which supports people in recovery. He has set up a local giving page to raise money.