Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral, recently shared his powerful experience sleeping in the cathedral cloisters for the Advent Sleepout Challenge. The following is an exerpt. The full account can be found at:- https://www.sleepoutchallenge.org.uk/uncomfortable-thoughts-at-3am.
“Lying there, wrapped in numerous layers, and listening to the world go by, I decided that, after all, this night might not be so bad. Above me were the wonderful roof bosses for which Norwich Cathedral is rightly famous. And I was reminded yet again what a stunning building this great Cathedral is and the enormous privilege of living and working here. Sleep came surprisingly easily. The only likely disturbance seemed to be the snoring of my neighbours.
At 3am, I suddenly woke up and sat bolt upright. I felt uncomfortable and constricted by all the layers. I wanted to pull them off and feel free but the cold wind on my face advised me otherwise. I looked around me and saw all the “stuff” I had brought to make me comfortable but, if I was really homeless, it would be too much to carry around each day. And I began to wonder where I would put my bedding during the day and what would I do if it got wet or someone stole it or threw it out with the rubbish? What if the person sleeping next to me was not a fellow member of Chapter but a stranger who, as I slept, might rummage through my few meagre possessions and steal them? And what if those footsteps were not another sleeper seeking the toilets, but a passer-by who might shout at me, kick me, or worse? Suddenly my pulse was racing and I felt a creeping fear.
These were but shadow thoughts, which at 3am can so easily tempt and torment. Tomorrow night I would be safely back in my bed and this one night in the Cloisters would become just another story to tell friends about cathedral life. But as my breathing calmed and I lay down again, I offered a silent prayer for all for whom homelessness has become a daily reality, and gave thanks for the Church Urban Fund and all the projects they support that try to make a difference to those trapped in poverty. Sleep finally returned, but no longer so comforting.
Twenty-first century Britain: the glories of our heritage and a reminder of all that humanity can achieve and in its shadows, people sleeping rough and a reminder of all that humanity still needs to achieve. And across Europe thousands walk clutching their few possessions, hoping they will find a welcome, fearing that what lies ahead may prove worse than that which they left behind.”
He challenges us, just for sixty seconds, to think what that might be like…