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The Revd Canon Grace Thomas - 11/02/2024

The Revd Canon Grace Thomas shares this Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Manchester - Sunday 11th February.

I have lived in many different homes now, but I’ll never forget the generosity of welcome I received when I moved into my first council home, baby in tow. This was an estate where deprivation was rife. Nobody had much of anything. Yet the day I moved in, one of my new neighbours came round to offer a cup of tea and welcome me. Another came over with a baby swing that her children had grown out of – having noticed that I had a small child. There was a real sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.

That was years ago now, but I was reminded of that welcome and sense of solidarity when, about 18 months ago, I visited a little community in France called Taizé. Taizé was founded in 1940 and has become one of the world's most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. The community's church is called the Church of Reconciliation and was built by young Germans working together for reconciliation after World War II.

Brother Roger created the community at a time when France had suffered deep defeat in war. He dreamed of providing a house where those most discouraged, those deprived of a livelihood, could find safety. The vision for Taizé was that it could be a place of peace-making, prayer and welcome. At the service we went to, prayers and chants were said in different languages, and all around us people of all ages and ethnicities knelt or sat to pray as one. I remember looking around and feeling a sense of deep hope.

Today is Racial Justice Sunday, and one of the focuses is on how we welcome people from different cultures when they seek safety and sanctuary. Brother Roger’s peacemaking, reconciling home that emerged in the midst of horrendous conflict has stood the test of time. My own experience of open-armed welcome, as a young mum with nothing, has never left me.

The places today where such hospitality and connection exist are often the places where human flourishing, community and hope can be seen most clearly. Jesus reminds us that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome him, and Christianity, like many faiths, has a strong emphasis on generous hospitality. This Racial Justice Sunday, I give thanks for the warmth and welcome I have received and for the ways in which so many people extend the hand of welcome and peace towards newcomers seeking to find a home today. I pray that this grows, as such openness creates fertile ground for long-lasting peace and reconciliation.

The kingdom of God is a place, I believe, of radical, joyful welcome. And it starts with us, in the places we inhabit and in the way we embrace a practice of generous hospitality.

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