Hospitality becomes sharing life

Joanne Boyce sings You are my Hands. Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good; yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Welcome to the audio version of a reflection guide, prepared by Jesuit Refugee Service UK with Christian Life Community for use by small groups and individuals. This audio version has been created to provide individuals and small groups a way of exploring the issues within the prayer pack at a greater depth.

Opening your door to a stranger is daring and a very radical way of being human. At the same time, helping someone in such great need is rewarding and enriching. Many have done it, and have had their reward. Abraham was promised a son because of his hospitality (Genesis 18:1-8), the widow of Zarepheth welcomed and cared for Elijah, despite her own grinding poverty (1 Kings 17:7-16), and Jesus himself accepted the hospitality of many in his ministry. Can you see this as a wonderful opportunity to give and receive, to be the hands of God, to be empowered to do something for justice?

The principal aim of the Jesuit Refugee Service’s ‘At Home’ Hosting Project is to provide accommodation to destitute asylum seekers, those whose asylum application has been refused and who have no more rights for appeal. In winter particularly, the weather here in the UK is harsh on everyone. Some asylum seekers we know have few friends able to help and nowhere to go, or have often turned to street corners for sleeping rough.

JRS seeks respite for them in families and religious communities; somewhere they could have some dignity and have good and decent nights’ sleep for at least two months. These places are very limited, but they can be a place where they feel safe and comfortable and have regular healthy meals, whenever they have the opportunity of being hosted. It can be heart-breaking asking them to leave the accommodation at the end of two months, without finding alternative accommodation for them, but often this hospitality provides a building block towards further self-advocacy or support.

In these sessions of guided prayer, we invite you to cross the threshold and enter a little into the experience of a homeless asylum seeker in the UK. We hope that you find it challenging, thought-provoking and engaging.

Each of the seven themes focuses on a different step in an asylum seeker’s journey of homelessness and the hopefully transformative experience of being offered hospitality. The themes invite you to engage in the feelings of the guest, as well as the host’s experience of being open to whoever comes.

These guided prayer sessions can either be used by someone listening on their own, or played to a small group with discussion during or after the reflection. If you’re using it as part of a regular group activity, do continue to do whatever your group usually does, these audio prayer sessions are designed for you to use in the way that best suites you.

We have tried to prioritise refugee voices, as the Jesuit Refugee Service places great importance on enabling each person we accompany to speak for themselves where possible. Their experience, need and wisdom inform how we shape our response. Every session of guided prayer includes some quotations or passages to pray with and questions for you to consider. In this way, whether you have spent time with refugees or not, you can, on your own or in a group, reflect at a level that enables you to learn and share.

‘Home’ can be an emotive topic for all of us, wherever we come from or however we live. If you are using this reflection as part of a group, check with the rest of your group that they are happy to explore this with a level of honesty and respect how to share. Home can be a physical, emotional and spiritual place, evoking rich stories and memories.

You might find it helpful to use a stillness exercise at the beginning of each session, and an Examen at the end. We’ve prepared audio versions of these – a stillness exercise for those using the retreat on their own, and one for groups, and a general Examen prayer for the end of each session.

As well as beginning each session of prayer with a stillness exercise, and ending with an Examen, it’s important to try and stick to the time you’re giving these reflections, particularly if you are doing them on your own, without the structure of a group. Try and stick to the time that you’ve given to these reflections, and try to set aside the same amount of time each week, or every day, that you’re doing these reflections.

Before beginning these reflections, try and focus on where you are coming from in your own life – perhaps ‘home’ is a difficult idea for you, or perhaps it brings happy memories and feelings. For a few moments, just think about the idea of home and see what arises.

What do you want to get from this retreat? A better understanding of the lives of our brothers and sisters who struggle with homelessness? So that you can discern more clearly the will of God in your life – perhaps so that you can help refugees find the justice they deserve?

A time of retreat is a privileged time when we can examine more closely our relationship with God, with our friends and family, and with the world. What graces do you need from God? What things do you most need from him in your life at the moment? Can you ask for them over these sessions?