Inclusivity & the Homeless

Dunham Road Unitarian Chapel in the well-heeled Cheshire town of Altrincham has a surprisingly informative website as well as a commanding presence on one of the settlement’s busy roads. Unitarianism is ‘liberal’ Christianity par excellence; unlike other liberal-leaning denominations, unitarians make no pretence of accepting the trinity or the Bible as God’s sole, written word. Indeed, the first statement to greet the visitor to its website is this:

We love Jesus. We love Buddha too. And Muhammad and Krishna and Moses and Guru Nanak and Julian of Norwich. And lots of other folks. We are Unitarians.

Great. And as one might expect, the church is pleased to share that it was ‘1st in the North West to perform same sex ceremonies’. In case anyone doubts its position in this regard, someone has printed off a sign and stuck it to the church's front door which talks about how proud they are to be an inclusive church, with a rainbow colour scheme.

When I called to inspect the building according to my custom, the door was duly locked. That is fine; being inclusive does not mean admitting every unannounced tourist. Yet in the grounds there was at least one rough sleeper in a tent, with the church porch being used to shelter some of his/her possessions from the wind and rain. It struck me as odd that a church which is pleased to tell the world how thoroughly inclusive it is should suffer a homeless guy to spend December in a tent. Why not open the doors, and offer a dryer, warmer space?

For all I know, the folk at Dunham Road Unitarian Chapel were not even aware of the tent-dweller’s plight; there might even be good reasons why they do not want their chapel being used as a shelter. Yet there is something just a little bit ironic about a sign proclaiming inclusivity while twenty feet away, a rough sleeper lies shivering in the cold. Those who pretend to love Jesus while denying His teachings might irritate me, but the homeless and the poor can see through religious posturing more clearly than those who are comfortably off.

Some expressions of 'inclusivity' are as authentic as the plastic flowers growing in the church porch.