Faith at the races
by Carwyn Gravell, 17 May 2013
A fascinating day yesterday at Sandown race course (all in a day’s work at Lemos&Crane!), the rather incongruous location for a Housing Justice meeting where I was asked to talk about my report Lost and Found: faith and spirituality in the lives of homeless people. The meeting was taking place as part of the Christian Resources Exhibition, now in its 25th year, and going from the strength to strength judging by the number of visitors comfortably filling Sandown’s vast exhibition space.
The Housing Justice delegates – specifically the Christian Homeless Forum, a sub group of Housing Justice – were a jolly bunch and most welcoming, especially given the fact that I was an atheist in their midst...Perhaps unsurprisingly they welcomed my report’s message that all service providers (faith-based and non) should take greater heed of homeless people’s faith and spirituality as an aspect of their identity and as a source of social, emotional and psychological support. But welcomed not without a lot of careful consideration and soul-searching about how to do this sensitively in practice, not to preach or be seen to proselytise, and how to involve other faith denominations in their work ("as a back up team", explained one participant).
One of my report’s principal recommendations is that all service providers for homeless people should set up spirituality discussion groups, open to ‘all faiths and no faith’, to satisfy many service users’ hunger for fruitful discussion about purpose and meaning in life. Yesterday’s meeting felt like one of those groups in action, as my atheist world view and unshakeable materialism was respected and welcomed as an alternative take on life. I felt a genuine sense of fellowship, of belonging to a community of inquiry. I felt as if I’d made some new friends.