Tea and Biscuits

Just a cup of tea and a biscuit – or is it, Justice?

Conscious of the theme of Justice this Lent, Carrie Blount has been thinking about how Places of Welcome hosts act as agents of justice.

When I saw that the theme for this year’s Church of England lent programme was Justice – I’ll admit, I felt a little uncomfortable. I conjured up images of courtrooms and lawyers, seen primarily through the news and not related to real life experience. I thought of ‘Justice of the Peace’, but it’s a title that doesn’t really hold any meaning for me. I don’t know a Justice of the Peace and I don’t in all honesty really know what they do. I thought about justice being served, and thought about judgement, sentencing and punishment – a legalistic word. So, at first, I thought how can this theme of justice mean something to me and how is it relevant to my role as a Places of Welcome Facilitator, and what does it mean to the Places of Welcome that I visit?

The first thing I did was refer to good old Google and search for the meaning of the word justice and found that simply put justice means ‘the quality of being fair’ – now this I could relate to, I felt I could certainly warm to this meaning. Armed with this straightforward description I started to look around and think about where I find this ‘quality of being fair’ in my daily life.

I was greatly encouraged to find that so much of the work that my colleagues are involved in within the Transforming Communities Together team aims to bring about fairness, from highlighting Modern Slavery, to promoting inclusion through the Enabling All awards, to supporting work of financial inclusion, and that of social integration through the Near Neighbours programme – but then that shouldn’t have been a surprise as justice is embedded in its mission statement

"Our mission is to partner with others, seeking the common good, working for justice as people of hope, so that communities may flourish and those who are vulnerable, isolated, and disadvantaged might enjoy life in its fullness."

But what of the work that I help to facilitate – the Places of Welcome network in the Black Country – does this network see itself as working for justice, do the Places of Welcome hosts see themselves as agents of justice? Well, they should, but if you asked any of our hosts about what they do, I am sure this is not a label they would ever consider.

Places of Welcome operate around five key principles, colloquially called the 5P’s.

People – our Places of Welcome are open to anyone – we do not exclude anyone due to age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation

Place – the place should be accessible to all – we do not exclude anyone due to mobility or accessibility needs

Provisionrefreshments are free – we do not exclude anyone based on their ability to pay

Presence – we provide a listening ear to everyone

Participation – we encourage everyone to contribute

These safe spaces in local communities, where people to connect, belong and contribute could not be more inclusive and fairer, but to the people that host a Place of Welcome they are faithfully serving their communities often unaware of the biblical hospitality that they provide.

Open Places of Welcome and TCT

Let’s look at the 5P’s again and consider the following biblical references.

Place - Its people showed extraordinary kindness — it was cold and it had started to rain, so they lit a bonfire and welcomed us all (Acts 28:2)

People - There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)

Provision - Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:7)

Presence - Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4)

Participation - For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 121:4-6)

The simple principles of Places of Welcome, reflect biblical principles and coupled with the humble service of it hosts, ensure that pockets of justice are carried out in a variety of communities across the country.

But ask the hosts how they view what they do and, in all likeliness, they will smile and say, ‘it’s just a cup of tea and biscuit’.