Our Home

Published 17th June 2024 by Aike Kennett-Brown

Our Home.

What images do these two simple words conjure up?

For me, I imagine a scene where my 2 young adult children are back from Uni, and our family of 5 are reunited, dancing and singing whilst doing the washing-up, after a family meal together. Our home is full of joy, noise and laughter.

What did you think of? Perhaps you pictured a place, a room, the people in it or even the smell?

But what if our home is no longer a safe place to be?

Our Home is the theme for Refugee Week 17th – 23rd June. It helps us consider our role as guests and hosts in the places we gather to share meals, to our collective home, planet earth. The choir that I recently joined, Citizens of the World choir, will be performing in central London this week, giving our voice to highlight the plight of the voiceless. This is no ordinary choir. Half its members are refugees and asylum seekers, whilst the remainder, like me, are allies. I went along with our Ukrainian house guest, but it turns out she doesn’t like singing that much and has dropped out, whilst I have rediscovered my inner Sound of Music. The choir’s purpose is to make community through music. During our break, there’s so much chatter, food served and a selection of ‘preloved’ clothes to donate or pick over. I am thoroughly enjoying meeting new people from all sorts of backgrounds and from over 26 different countries. Hearing some of their stories is heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measure. Outside of choir, there’s an active What’s App group, filled with messages of encouragement and celebration (lots of birthday greetings). It really adds to the community feels between rehearsals. The love within the space is tangible. It’s how I wish church would feel.

It’s made me wonder how we create community at Messy Church, not just when we gather monthly, but how we maintain relationships in between. As a result, at my local MCGW, we’ve just set up a WhatsApp group for our parent and carers. We put out some encouraging messages and reminders. So far some parents have responded by adding photos from our previous Messy Church with messages of thanks, and others are using it to let us know if they are coming (or not), which helps with the catering. I’m hoping the chat will evolve to include prayer requests, as the online community develops.

What does your Messy Church do to stay in contact with the community between gatherings?

Returning to Citizens of the World, I took part in my first performance with the choir a couple of weeks ago. It was an emergency fundraiser, as sadly the choir didn’t receive an Arts Council grant this year (which funds the rehearsal space, travel expenses for any refugees and conductor/singing coach). In a few short weeks I had to memorise the lyrics to 3 songs, 2 of which were not in English! This has been a real challenge for my middle-aged brain. In particular, I struggled to learn the words to Schedryck, a Ukrainian New Year song you might know as Carol of the Bells, although when translated, it’s about a swallow and a wife with a fine brown eyebrow! I only had 6 lines to learn, as fortunately my alto part sings ‘ahh’ harmonies for most of it. However, I found it so hard. 3 solid days of repeating the lines over and over, not particularly understanding the meaning of the sounds I was trying to make. I’d learn a new line and the previous one would drop out of my memory. Performance day arrived and I managed 4 of the 6 lines, and mumbled something for the other 2, looking at the conductor mouthing the words at us. At that moment, I had a new appreciation of the struggles my Ukrainian house guest has learning English. The daily language barrier makes life so much harder, for example trying to book a GP appointment on the phone is nearly impossible, as she can’t use visual mime to complement the broken English or quickly use Google translate to understand the reply.

At our May online gathering of international Messy Church country leaders, we considered the Bible passage in Acts 2, about how God dismantled the language barrier so the good news of Jesus could be shared, as the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in all sorts of different languages at Pentecost. We noticed the noise, excitement, bewilderment and energy that bubbled out of the room and onto the streets. We felt encouraged by how God has enabled the Messy Church movement to spread across continents, transcend language and denominational barriers and be a vehicle for God’s kingdom to grow and welcome new inhabitants.

The amazing thing with God’s kingdom is that it has no boundaries, does not require visas and passports and is available to all. We can find Our Home here.

I wonder..?

What would happen if this Refugee week we extended our warmth and hospitality beyond our own homes or Messy Church and made entire neighbourhoods more welcoming?

Could you try simple acts like having a chat, walking together, or sending a message of welcome that can help everyone feel like they belong?

Are there any language barriers that need to be dismantled in your Messy Church, to enable those with English as a second language to feel welcome in your community?

As global neighbours sharing in Earth’s resources, climate and its challenges, what practical changes can we make to allow our planet to be a more welcoming, safe and sustainable home for all? You can explore this through our Christian Aid Messy Harvest session.

What does the Bible say about refugees – check out this week-long series of biblical reflections and discover God’s heart for them and how we, as the body of Christ, can enable the stranger to belong in our communities.

Aike Kennett-Brown

BRF Ministries Messy Church Ministry Lead

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