God with Us: Watching

tower hill madonna 1

Watching 2

12 December 2017

Ubi Caritas, Deus Ibi Est

• He still had his job at the bakers when he was arrested by immigration enforcement and locked up in a detention centre. He was from Bulgaria and was caught sleeping in the back of his van – allegedly a breach of his freedom of movement treaty rights as an EU national.

• She had a miscarriage while sleeping rough under the A40 near Edgware Road. The authorities knew about her situation – and a safeguarding alert had been raised – but she was from Romania so there was no accommodation for her.

• And what about the man sleeping in the doorway – clearly distressed – completely let down by mental health services. (someone’s brother or someone’s dad)

• And the fear – and tears – in the eyes of the woman who begs for a place in the night shelter having spent another night traveling around London on a bus. Evicted by her landlord after increasing the rent beyond her means.

I’ve been working with homeless people and refugees for exactly thirty years now. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the injustice and cruelty, the madness and despair, out there in the darkness. Where is God in all this?

But I do see God. We can catch glimpses of his Kingdom. The migrant centre at my church in Stoke Newington. The day centre where I work in Marylebone. The volunteers at the Wednesday night soup kitchen in West Hackney. These are communities of love and respect. Special places and moments in the week where people are affirmed and there is hope. These are the places where I see God. Good people, volunteers, kindness. Places of light and hope. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Mark Palframan


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