Hope, courage, faith. Suffering, persecution, loss. These were just some of the themes that emerged from a very special and moving service held at Winchester Cathedral on 3rd April. People from the city’s homelessness community gathered to reflect on the stories and experiences of those whose lives have been impacted by homelessness, and to remember those no longer with us.
The service – Stronger Together: Reflections on pathways through homelessness in Winchester – included testimonies from people helped by local agencies including Winchester Churches Nightshelter, Trinity Winchester, Emmaus Hampshire, A2 Dominion/West View House and Winchester City Council, who work together to bring an end to homelessness in Winchester.
During a particularly poignant moment in the service, the names of local people who were part of Winchester’s homeless community, but have since lost their lives, were read out, and the congregation was invited to light remembrance candles and lay symbolic paper footprints along a pathway to the altar, to represent the journey through homelessness. A remembrance bench, which will be installed in the garden at Trinity Winchester, was also blessed as part of the service.
Those present were also asked to reflect on the parallels between themes emerging from the nativity and Easter story – hope, courage, faith, suffering, persecution and loss – and the homelessness stories heard during the service.
Canon Mark Collinson, Canon Principal of the School of Mission, said, ‘Jesus sometimes had nowhere to lay his head at night, so the volunteer Cathedral Close Pastors have been regularly connecting with some of the people who suffer from the issues related to homelessness in the Outer Close. They are our friends, and we value their presence because they are loved by God and all the agencies who work with them.’
Rev’d Katie Lawrence, Winchester Cathedral Curate who has developed the service, said, ‘God identifies with all marginalised people, and promises to journey with us through life, whatever our personal circumstances. The Cathedral exists in part to welcome and provide a spiritual home to all. It is also important to join together to grieve the loss of members of our homeless community who have died in recent years.’
Michele Price, Nightshelter Manager, said: “Every homelessness story is unique and personal to the person experiencing it. We wanted to create a space and moment to contemplate these journeys back to independence, and to celebrate the determination and synergy of the organisations working in Winchester to help local people find a home.”