With the winter chill and the rising cost of energy, many of us are being more mindful about our heating and looking at ways to reduce the energy we use. However, people who have no home and are sleeping on the streets don’t even have that choice.
On a freezing cold January night, members of the worshipping community at St Barnabas in Gloucester came together to raise money for the homeless by experiencing a night in the cold for themselves.
The Revd Sarah Todd, Vicar at St Barnabas, says, “We had been talking at our youth group about the ways we could share our faith by serving others. We saw the many people who sleep out in our city regularly and also on Robinswood Hill, which is next to our church building. Some of us knew of others who had not had the security of a permanent home. We wanted to fundraise for the work of Gloucester City Mission, a local charity that supports the homeless, and so decided to do a sponsored sleep-in.”
On Friday 20 January, Sarah hunkered down in the church along with the youth group, some of their friends and other St Barnabas church leaders to take part in the Big Sleep In.
“We arrived at church at 7.30pm and it was already quite cold. We spent the evening talking, playing games, watching a movie on the big screen and having hot chocolate and cake to help keep warm. We also had the opportunity to engage with a prayer station, which offered ways to pray for Gloucester City Mission, those they help and our city.
“As the evening went on, it got very cold. Bedtime was early and we were all wearing a lot of layers. In the morning, one of the team, Matt, got up before everyone else to make sure we all had a delicious hot breakfast, which we really appreciated after a long, cold night. Although we had been safely inside the building with sleeping bags, warm clothes and blankets, many of us felt unsettled, chilly and a bit on edge.”
At the Sunday service after the event, the young people shared their experiences of sleeping in the church, while Kevin Howie from Gloucester City Mission gave a talk about the work they do for the homeless and how people can help.
One child said, “It was quite cold… it was quite hard to sleep on the floor as it was uncomfortable. We had to roll up in our sleeping bags to keep warm.”
When thinking about how a person sleeping on the streets might feel, another child said, “It was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
Another member who took part in the sleep-in said, “It was so cold that I started shivering and couldn’t stop, so I piled loads of clothes on and got back into bed. Lying there with clothes and blankets and feeling cold did give me a greater appreciation of what someone who is having to live on the streets would be feeling.”
Sarah adds, “The Bible tells us that God is all about the sort of justice that reaches out to those on the margins of society and challenges unjust structures. Many young people are also passionate about this and often feel frustrated that their concerns and wisdom are not listened to. Between them, they raised nearly £1,000 pounds, which is wonderful. They have also brought the issues faced by many across our country and world into focus for our community. They have made important connections and put their faith and convictions into action, inspiring us as a faith community to ask questions about how we can follow their amazing example.”
You can watch a short video of some of the participants sharing their experiences and read Kevin’s talk here: stbarnabasgloucester.org/post/the-big-sleep-in-gloucester-city-mission
Find out more about the work of Gloucester City Mission
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