This month marks the 80th anniversary of the debut of the film
The Wizard of Oz, with Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy. As I was growing up, it was a film that made a very strong
impression upon me and I still enjoy re-watching it today. The story of Dorothy trying to find her way home is bright and
colourful, but tinged with darkness and fear – the wicked witch of the West is consumed with anger and the need for
revenge after Dorothy’s house lands on, and kills, the witch’s sister and Dorothy is given the powerful ruby slippers
by Glinda, the good witch of the South. It’s a classic tale of good versus evil, with the desire to return to that place
(‘home’) where security and safety is to be found.
Within weeks of the film hitting cinema screens, of course, another conflict between
good and evil began to be played out in the real world as the Second World War started to escalate. A couple of years ago
I stood in Gdansk by a small tower where the first shots were fired (from the second window down) on 1st September
1939 at Westerplatte and it was a very odd sensation to be in that place – it did feel like the weight of history hung
heavy there. Over the next six years countless people were displaced across Europe for many different reasons: people were
called up to fight, others lost their homes to bombs and fires, many were evacuated and, of course, millions were sent to
prisons and concentration camps. The idea of where ‘home’ was must have been one which was being re-thought in
many different ways.
of course, the concept of home remains one which, for lots of people, is quite fluid. Society is far more mobile than when
Dorothy set off along the yellow-brick road eight decades ago, and people often spend most of their lives living at various
distances from where they were born or grew up. Refugees fleeing war or people escaping political or social situations where
their lives are at risk often find themselves in the midst of strange lands and strange cultures, having to consider what
it is to make a home in such different places. For us as Christians it can sometimes seem that our culture doesn’t as
easily offer a comfortable home to our beliefs as maybe it once did – the secularisation of society and the declining
place of the churches in British life can make us feel a little excluded and odd when we admit to our faith and its centrality
to our lives.
the background to individuals or families looking to discover where and what ‘home’ is, we can acknowledge at
least that people of every generation in history have had similar journeys of discovery. From the people of Israel journeying
to the Promised Land, to the vast movement of people from the countryside to the towns and cities of England during the Industrial
Revolution, the concept of finding somewhere to settle and call home has been one which is forever being revisited. And, as
we have marked 50 years since the first moon landing, we recognise that perhaps, in the future, our descendants might even
look to other planets with the question of what it means to make such distant places their home.
When it comes down to it, though, I suspect for the majority of people,
home is less about where we live and more about who we live with. ‘Home is where the heart is’, goes the old saying,
and where are hearts are most is with those we love and care about, our families, our friends, and – for Christians
– with God. One of the more famous of Christian quotations is from the early church. St Augustine of Hippo, despite
the efforts of his Christian mother, resisted the call of Christ in his life for many years, He was baptised later in his
adult life and about a decade later wrote one of his seminal works ‘Confessions’. It’s in that book that
we find the phrase: ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their
rest in you.’ Augustine recognised that he couldn’t be at home with other things and people in his life without
God – relationship with Christ was the key to feeling at peace and of being settled and at home. Over the centuries,
many Christians have discovered this to be true in their lives too.
It’s telling, perhaps, that many refugees find where their new home is partly by
finding a place where they can worship with others – whether Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever. When we have
caught a glimpse of God in our hearts then we will need to find where God is as part of us finding where our home is. The
nature of our communities and society might not be changing as radically and as quickly as it did in parts of Europe in the
1930s and 40s, but it is changing and we must consider how, as people of faith, this is threaded through that change, and
what it means regarding our feelings of being ‘at home’. The recent Chester Clergy Conference, for all the clergy
of the diocese, had the title, God’s Song, Strange Land – taking its inspiration from
Psalm 139 – ‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept – how shall we sing the Lord’s song in
a strange land?’ How can we make our church communities ‘home’ for both those who already have faith in
Christ and those who are discovering Christ for the first time in the reality of today’s world? How do we exhibit, and
grow in the idea of, the words of St Augustine: Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in God?
Home is both a place where we feel secure and relaxed but also where
we can venture out from confidently to embrace new experiences and to make new journeys. How can we grow St Martin’s
to be a Home where both of these things are true? As we continue to ponder and pray over what our future ‘voice’
might be in this community and what life and mission God is calling us to embody, may we come to hear God’s call to
us and know the peace he gives our hearts when we find our rest in him.
With my prayers for you all,