A sense of belonging

Published on: 1 November 2018

Reflecting on home and family, I recall my own happy childhood when I naively believed everyone’s experience was similar. I was wrong. Family and home hold different meanings for people.

The common phrase ‘home is where the heart is’ can mean our loved ones, wherever they are, or the physical family home providing a place of security, love, belonging, acceptance, trust, forgiveness, growth, encouragement, discipline, resilience and possibly faith.

Homes can also be fearful places not offering safe shelter, when there is addiction, or domestic or child sexual abuse. Broken relationships can cause people to leave home and become ‘home’less or estranged from their families; 7.1 million people in the UK live alone.

As a counsellor I work with individuals, couples and families and believe everyone has intrinsic worth. Within the therapeutic relationship counselling offers a safe non-judgemental space to explore the emotional impact of loss, illness, unemployment, disability and trauma for example. Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone outside the family. Systemic therapy, however, enables families to discuss their relationships and functioning. No family is immune from dysfunction.

Made in God’s image, we are relational beings. Attachment theory informs us that if babies form secure attachments with their caregivers, the babies will develop a sense of secure self and can explore the world from the security of that relationship. If not, s/he will develop an insecure attachment. These experiences influence how we relate to people within family and outside and what we believe about ourselves. A therapeutic space enables us to explore childhood wounds which can happen in families.

I have an adopted daughter, and children taken into care usually have insecure attachments due to birth family experiences such as mental illness, abuse, neglect or instability. Those families cannot nurture children to thrive, possibly due to their own childhood experiences. When we welcome children into our home and family we become therapeutic parents creating a secure base. For a second child placed in my family we were her 18thplacement. It was quickly obvious that her little life had been so traumatised she was unable to live in a family.

God ordained family. The roles of husband and wife and children, if there are any, are specified and a model set for Christian families. As part of our healthy development, we separate from our family. Adolescence begins that process as we can grow and develop fully into who we are.

As a Christian I joined God’s family. My then Pastor encouraged us to “go out into the mission field carrying the love of Jesus to a broken world and through a practical compassionate response”.

I sensed my personal calling was to “to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61). John O’Donohue wrote that our homes can “be a house of welcome for the broken and diminished”. We don’t have to be trained counsellors to listen when someone is lonely or hurting. We can all offer a sense of home.

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Articles in this issue...

Supporting strangers and sojourners

Sally Clarke, who worships at St Stephens, Norwich, shares her individual approach in offering a home, not only to “regular” lodgers, but sometimes to those who others might think twice about accepting.


Creating a home from home

When most people are settling into retirement, one couple took on a major project to provide a home from home for students. Here is their roller-coaster tale of the past two years.


Adoption; the core of who we are

Without adoption, our Christian story might have been radically different. Christ’s earliest moments teach us to extend family generously, for our salvation as well as others’.


What makes a home?

The cat’s made herself at home. After a year of upheaval, moving from Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, to Norwich (where she was bullied by a streetwise city cat) and then again to Sparham, Mo our 15-year-old cat has decided country life is the thing. She has also set up home in my PA’s office next door.


Faith at home

Research by the Church of England has highlighted that one of the most important factors in enabling children to continue in faith through to adulthood is the support they receive from their family – and yet the Faith in our families report published last year by Care for the Family showed a widespread lack of confidence in parents and a lack of tools to help.


Care Home Friends

Home and family comes in many different shapes and guises. One village church in Norfolk is making a real impact on the elderly in their community.


Home at the heart of the Cathedral family

Before I worked in a cathedral l had never considered what such a majestic building really meant. Visiting cathedrals as a child I remember feeling unnerved within vast, cold space, stunned by stained glass windows, bemused by weird smells and strange objects. I recall the word “Shush” being used a lot too.


The church as home – reflections on Mark 9:33-37

"Breaking down barriers and being a place that recognises that we're all unfit and need God and each other to get better"


Our house, in the middle of our street

Not content with opening their home to others, Sue and Gary Moore, member of the Church Army, have gone one stop further by purchasing a second home for the use of those living in their community near Dereham, and calling it 'Our House'. Biddy Collyer went to meet them.


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