Coronation Street has a story line about the politics of casting for the local Nativity. (Hopefully Simon will get the role of the innkeeper). The innkeeper is always cast in a good light. He is the one who found room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem when everyone else was shouting “there isn’t any room”. For Mary and Joseph this innkeeper is the landlord from heaven. For us, he is one who found room for Jesus.
I suspect that many greet a roof and bed with a sigh of relief, particularly after long travels, or through being made homeless, or through economic migration. Mary and Joseph would be no exception. Often the shine soon rubs off as they realise that they are trapped by landlords from hell.
This week’s Channel 4 documentary Landlords from Hell highlights the shameful conditions many people have to live with. Good housing seems essential for good mental health and physical wellbeing, and it is such a shame that those who are most vulnerable in our society, and have such little control over their living conditions, are subjected to really squalid shelter. I know how much I value my home and how important it is that it is comfortable, clean and reasonably orderly. That means that I have a place to relax and recover. That would seem to be a basic human right. The programme is part of a Channel 4 campaign to expose the Great British Property Scandal. Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb writes:
Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact these landlords have on peoples’ lives as families remain trapped in homes that cause misery, and, in some cases, put lives at risk. What’s more, we believe thousands more families could suffer as changes in the Localism Act will see councils placing more vulnerable homeless households in private rented housing.
|Beulah House Hotel featured in Landlords from Hell
(Beulah comes from a Hebrew verb meaning to own– ironic!)
Jon Snow was the presenter of the Channel 4 documentary. Before his career as a journalist Jon Snow worked for New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre for homeless young people in central London (with which he has remained involved since). At a time when we are so hacked off with journalists and the abuse of their power, Jon Snow’s example is a refreshing reminder of what good journalism is and what good journalism can do to bring to the light of day those things hidden in darkness. He confronted some of the guilty landlords with the grim realities of his findings, and hopefully they will take steps to put things right. I hope they will do that without recriminations, though I fear for those whose landlord threatens his tenants with the baseball bat.
I wonder how good the landlord in Bethlehem actually was. We aren’t told how much he charged for the room. We aren’t told whether he moved another family in after Mary and Joseph had shown him the potential for letting the room out. And it did have a misleading Michelin star over the door. I suspect that it is more helpful to be shown the rooms in the Apollo Guest House and the Beulah House Hotel (featured in Landlords from Hell) as the place of our Saviour’s birth. After all, they are the places for those for whom there is no room – bed bugs and all.
Friend Karin – @KarinLyle1
wanted to comment to this post with photos – couldn’t, so I add her comments as a PS and with thanks.
Just wanted to reply to your “Landlords from Hell” Blog with two pictures of “Hospitality from Heaven”. Neither image does justice to the ‘peace’ and the ‘fragrance’ in these two pictures, nor to the graciousness of the hosts.
If only we could offer a welcome like this to the weary and outcast in our society.
The Fruits of Sandra’s Garden
Bedroom view from St. Beuno’s
I was intrigued by ideas of hospitality and celebration whilst watching Jamie Oliver on Channel 4 last night. I was wearing my metaphorical priest’s hat. Jamie gets everywhere on TV. The British public loves him for his energy and commitment. Last night’s programme focused on my home city, Leicester. Jamie’s comments began by highlighting the prospect of Leicester becoming the first UK city where the majority of the population is non-white. Jamie’s glass is definitely half-full and last night’s programme saw him at the asian veg stall on Leicester market and in the kitchen of Amita Mashru’s Gujerati restaurant eager to celebrate what immigrant communities have brought to us and our cooking and to celebrate the British achievement of entertaining different food cultures, and the spices of our foods picked up from different corners of the world.
Hospitality and celebration are central functions of ministry and defines the people of God, including Jews, Muslims and Christians, and other faith communities. Trace Hathorn reminds us that hospitality defines the people of God. He writes:
The call to welcome the stranger is anchored in the Torah and was a part of themeasure of the Hebrew community’s faithfulness to God. When a traveler came totown, they waited by the well, and it was incumbent upon the townspeople tohouse and feed the visitor for the night.Of course, these travelers were rarelyfamily. … They were aliens, often foreigners, people who had different foods,different clothes, different languages, different gods. Opening one’s home wasrisky. Today we’d describe such a thing as out and out foolish. … Suchhospitality was central to the Hebrew identity. The risk did not define thepeople; their hospitality did, for they knew such hospitality was central tothe character of their God. The same was true in the early Christiancommunities. Paul reminded the Romans to offer hospitality to the alien, and inthe Letter to the Hebrews the people were reminded to show hospitality to allfor in so doing some entertained angels unaware. In Acts, the early deaconspracticed hospitality throughout the community, bringing welcome to those inneed. And in Matthew’s community, hospitality still measured the faithfulnessof the people. Welcoming prophets, righteous ones and disciples (those whomMatthew called “little ones”) was a disciplined practice of the young churches.
What seems to make Jamie such a good host and celebrant is his joie de vivre, the love of his subjects and his love of what people bring to the table. He seems convivial and congenial. Life tastes both bitter and sweet to Jamie’s palate, but his joy in that concoction is infectious. Being entertained and fed by Jamie is intriguing and is challenging my own hospitality and how I play the role of host.
|Passmores School, Harlow – the scene for Educating Essex.
This photo from vincentballard
Well done Channel 4 for the Educating Essex series. (Though the Daily Wail has a rather different take on it).We have enjoyed seeing a vibrant learning community built round dedicated professional teachers: Mr Goddard as Head (he has blogged), Mr Drew as Deputy and Miss Conway as Head of Year 11 who seem dedicated to responding to the emotional needs of this group of adolescent teenagers. It was good to hear Mr Drew telling his Year 11 students “You have no idea how much I like teaching you, you have no idea.” Passmores School, near Harlow, is an “outstanding school” according to Ofsted which has more than met its target of students’ GCSE achievements.
Ryan, with Aspergers, is beautiful, and moved us (as well as his fellow students and headteacher) to tears with his impromptu speech on leaving day when he declared the two years spent in school as the happiest of his life, with the school becoming his family. Here the argument about whether Asperger’s is “disease” or “syndrome” is settled in favour of syndrome – a difference rather than a disability to be cured.
Vinni’s story is told with great senstivity. He is in care twenty miles from school, family and friends. He loses his bet that he will be at the end of year prom by failing to attend school for the last term and so forfeits his right to the prom ticket. He does turn up to see what he is missing. I guess a lot of people would have said “What are you doing here?” Not so Mr Goddard. He greets Vinni with “Great to see you. Sorry you’re not here properly.” Mr Goddard comments that Vinni is only a child – one let down by so many people – including himself.
On a day when the media had been discussing the depressing findings of ICM research published by Barnardo’s, it was good to see youngsters managing to live and work in a community, and to see dedicated professional teachers flexible enough to work close to the emotional and educational needs of the students. That survey suggests that 44% adults agree that British children are becoming “feral”, and that 47% say that the trouble with young people is that they are “angry, violent and abusive”. Oh, the power of the Daily Wail/Fail as the hidden persuader of our perceptions.
I have often noticed the phrase that dates when there were better times. It is “thirty years ago”, and 30 years ago has always been better than today. 30 years could be the measure of a generation, and a way of expressing our fear of the next generation and how they are going to be as members of “our” society. Steven Pinker observes that one of the effects of ageing is to be negatively judgemental about the next generation, and to be inclined to believe that the past (which is our generation) is always better than the present. In his book, The Better Angels of Nature he demonstrates that the (further) past was a far nastier place than we might have imagined and that the present is far nicer than we might have noticed.
Asperger’s Syndrome Foundation