Bishop Rob reflects on his visit to the Walsall Places of Welcome

Date Posted: Feb 28, 2023.

Places of Welcome is a growing network of local community groups providing their neighbourhoods with places where all people feel safe to connect, belong and contribute.

I have in my office an icon based upon Rublev’s hospitality of Abraham, or the Trinity, as some call it. It depicts three angels sitting around a table, and we, and others, are invited to sit with these angels - perhaps even enjoying something of the food that is placed upon the table. This invitation is open to everyone, and in the beauty of this space, we may even find love, hope and belonging.

This icon sits, not aloof on a shelf, but at the end of my table, as a reminder to me that my role is to create space, and it is God’s purpose to enable encounter.

Rublevs hospitality of Abraham

When I visited two places of welcome, and it was as if I had walked into this icon. The gatherings were brimming with reality, relationships of hope, and a want from volunteers and friends alike to just be, and to just listen.

One of the projects in Walsall was shaped by soup, pancakes and the talk of bacon butties, another by cakes and penguin biscuits. Both of them drawing a cross section of the local community and inspired by a desire to love and to serve.

And what demand. Person after person, often widows or widowers, quietly telling me that these places of welcome provided, in some cases, the only company for that week. That this was their lifeline. That in this space, they could be themselves, because everyone had a story of loss, and their friends, those around them, knew. They just knew.

Now I know that my diary is full, racing from event to event, meeting to meeting. So I have to admit that it was an honour to spend some precious time sitting and listening, over a cuppa. Upon reflection, it was as if I had walked into this icon - hospitality, perhaps even God’s hospitality, for where two or three are gathered, there is God in the midst of them. When I begin at Church Urban Fund, I’m praying for many more encounters of this kind. I sense it will be good for my soul.

Thank you to all who provide places of welcome. Your hospitality is a lifeline to many, and you share love when you open your doors. Thank you too for all those who will be inspired to open new places of welcome. As the scriptures say, you will be entertaining angels, where, quite simply, this icon, the hospitality of Abraham comes alive.

St Matthews Walsall Bishop Rob 12
St Matthews Walsall Bishop Rob 5