In the autumn of 2016, I embarked on an early morning journey to Calais with my tutor, Simon Jones, to visit ‘the jungle’, a place I’d heard much about at Spurgeon’s College. Stepping out of the car, the reality hit hard. It was wet, muddy, and bitterly cold. The air carried a mix of familiar food scents and less pleasant odours from a series of portaloos. Amidst the chaos of moving people, a Franciscan monk, our guide, introduced us to a Muslim community leader in his makeshift home. In his cramped abode, the four of us talked for what felt like hours with tea and biscuits, interrupted by the constant flow of people seeking his guidance and updating him on recent crossings.
Why share this seemingly unimportant encounter? Because it challenged me deeply. Here I was, less than 100 miles from my front door, being offered tea by someone living in temporary accommodation, fleeing war, and I couldn’t return his generosity. It crystallised something within me— my previous experiences: supporting families suffering from deprivation and lacking support interventions; working with survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse cumulated into anger and a deep compassion for those who suffer. This wasn’t the sort of society I wanted to co-sign through my inaction and silence. In that moment, I was confronted with the challenge of Matthew 25, would I be a sheep or a goat?
Following that experience, I accepted a call to serve at Streatham Baptist Church (SBC) as Associate Minister for Mission, which evolved into co-leadership on the Ministerial team in the absence of a permanent team leader. During my time serving in Streatham, I was fortunate to support the development of a range of initiatives from Refugee ESOL classes to a ecumenical Homeless Shelter Circuit. For me, supporting the Christian community to engage with a spirituality that embodies Jesus’s love in doing justice was essential to the gospel. Simultaneously with accepting the call to serve at SBC, I took up a role on the Board of Restored, a charity seeking to raise awareness and equip churches around domestic abuse in Christian communities. My academic roots in Psychology and Theology have enabled me to appreciate how creativity and trauma-informed approaches can help not only the communities we serve but also those of us who seek to take up our crosses.
As I continue on this journey, I realise more and more that seeking justice is costly and irritates those with power and dare I say, even those who claim to support a justice seeking agenda. I’m also highly aware that my love for God cannot be separated from my love for others. Seeking justice is not an add-on to spirituality or vice versa. To practice a lifestyle of worship is to be just in the world.
At this junction in my life, I find myself aligned with the hopes and aspirations of the JPIT team. I hope that the small contribution I offer will help our denominations to radically grow and deepen our roots in being Jesus’s hands and feet in a time that it is needed more than ever.