Supporting strangers and sojourners

Published on: 1 November 2018

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.

I have lived with lodgers all my life. My widowed mother took people in and then, when I left home, I shared working life running my own B&B alone with up to six people a night staying with me. I lived overseas and worked as a social worker where I got to know about troubled lives. My Christian upbringing taught me about social responsibility.

Since retiring, I have continued to have lodgers and latterly these people have come to me through Christian friends. The first unusual one was a couple who were stateless and had been refused asylum in the UK. They were born in North Korea, taken over the frozen river into China as children and given to Chinese families. They met and married as adults. Because of fear of being sent back to North Korea they paid to be trafficked to a free country and came to England. When their application for asylum was refused, Christian friends of mine took them in initially which is where I first met them.

Despite the asylum failure meaning they could not work or claim benefits, through devious means they got jobs and took themselves off to Manchester to be independent. When they left Norwich, I told them that if they were stuck to let me know. Two years later at 5.30am I got a phone call to say they were being threatened by the triads and were frightened.

Instantly I told them to come here. It was illegal to shelter them, but they stayed with me a year and happily were baptised at St. Stephen’s before returning to China. The original cause of their fear had been removed and ‘documents’ had been bought. They were a great joy to know and now, eight years later, I’m looking forward to visiting them in Fiji in December.

The next tricky one was man in his 40s, a recovering addict who had work but nowhere to live. He had a lot of support from his church, but he started to drink and out of respect for me, moved on after three months. Now, five years later, I hear that he is doing well.

The third was someone I knew from the Magdalene Group and had nowhere to go to for weekend home leave from prison. We got on well, but she had seen some of her old friends who gave her heroin, so she left the night before she was due to return to prison. Life isn’t easy for addicted people, but some can kick the habit.

I still have a lodger – without problems! My Christian faith makes me feel it is immoral for me to live alone in a three-bedroomed house. I learned early on not to expect lodgers to do house work. They don’t share the whole house, have their own bedroom and bathroom and we share the kitchen. The main rules are: do your washing up straight away (which means I must do the same!) and clean the bathroom. Ultimately being the landlord, you can ask them to go but happily I have never had to do this!

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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’.


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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.


A sense of belonging

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.


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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