Why Jesus would have been at home in Victoria's tent city

Guest writer

“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Fear is a familiar companion for most of us. While there may be considered reasons for allowing it to shape us, the power of the emotion can quickly assert absolute control. What frightens us? It might be a debilitating illness, sudden poverty, loss of a home, loss of family, loss of oneself to substance use, or the feeling even God has disappeared from the horizon of life. The list is long

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We tend to have a strong reaction to those who visibly live these losses. When confronted with our fears embodied in others, many of us walk to the other side of the proverbial street. Yet one must ask what are the fears of those have already experienced those losses?

Through the last few months those who live and work near the Law Courts and Christ Church Cathedral have seen an unexpected community appear in the neighbourhood. Tent City, or as it is known Super InTent City, is a community of people who have come together out of the need to survive in difficult circumstances.  There are some who are deeply fearful of this group. Their message is clear: Go away! However, this new community has taken many othersona journey of discovery, of new relationships and mutual generosity.

It has been hard to watch as people struggled to stay warm and dry through the severe winter storms. At first some hunkered down with a few tarps cobbled together, and then others began creating homes from donated tents and sleeping bags. Now we see residents being creative with micro-structures. Neighbours and other groups have brought gifts of food, warmth, water, clothing and conversation. Day to day life is shaped by the Sacred Circle meeting held each morning. In the tradition of such circles there is a talking stick which is passed around the circle. When one has the stick thoughts ideas and feelings can be shared. It is a time of listening, honesty and learning.

Residents have come to value the Sacred Circle. They have covenanted to work with each other to keep the fabric of this fragile group intact. This difficult work has broken through the isolation and dread of many of the members. This is when concerns are shared and respected.

There is a transformational aspect to the community. Conversations are sprinkled with expressions of faith, and of hope. The Sacred Fire now burns constantly in the centre of the city. And in the middle of chaos, in the unexpected quiet by the fire, spoken and unspoken prayers flow gently heavenward entwined in the smoke. This is where dreams have taken root. In the middle of what has been fearful, in the middle of what many see as irretrievably broken, possibilities and hope are blooming. Fear is present but no longer dominates the minds of most residents. The Holy Spirit has once again erupted in the midst of apparent hopelessness.

I like to think Jesus would have been at home in Tent City, listening, laughing and gently teaching. He embraced non-traditional sources of wisdom. We too must meet wisdom in doorways, on park benches and in Tent Cities. It is our opportunity to understand our fears, and transform them into a different future and a different kind of hope.

Reverend Cannon Nancy FordThe Reverend Canon Nancy Ford, Deacon, is the Anglican Director of Deacons for the Diocese of British Columbia and Deacon to the City of Victoria out of Christ Church Cathedral. 

You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE

* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, January 30 2016

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