Worship for Sunday 11 October: Homelessness Sunday, by Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship: The Lord has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

On this Sunday, Christians across the UK will take time to reflect on homelessness and the issues surrounding homelessness in the UK. In particular, we shall focus on how COVID-19 has impacted on those experiencing homelessness and the services they rely on.

Hymn: Christ, be our light!

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.

Longing for truth, we turn to you.

Make us your own, your holy people,

Light for the world to see.


Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts,

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in your church, gathered today.


2. Longing for peace, our world is troubled.

Longing for hope, many despair.

Your word alone has power to save us.

Make us your living voice.


Christ, be our light!


3. Longing for food, many are hungry.

Longing for water, many still thirst.

Make us your bread, broken for others,

Shared until all are fed.


Christ, be our light!


4. Longing for shelter, many are homeless.

Longing for warmth, many are cold.

Make us your building, sheltering others,

Walls made of living stone.


Christ, be our light!


Many the gifts, many the people,

Many the hearts that yearn to belong.

Let us be servants to one another,

Making your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts,

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in your church, gathered today.

Words and Music: © 1993 Bernadette Farrell. Reproduced under CCLI licence no.214226.


A prayer of approach

Loving God,


We are the body of Christ

Created in your image

Known and loved by you

Loved for who we are,

Accepted, forgiven and restored,

United to live in your ways.


We are nourished by faith

Helping us, in our daily lives,

To face the challenges of each day

To carry us through times of illness, grief and anxiety,

Replenishing and restoring us,

Building us up as your people.


We are called to serve

The lonely, the lost and the deserted.

Through our words and our actions

To be the hands and the feet

Of our Church today.

Be with us now as we worship,

To feed us with compassion,

That we might dine on your grace,

That we might be filled with your Spirit,

As we live our faith in the world today.


We are challenged to love

To love our families

Through times of both joy and trial.

To love our friends and neighbours

Even if they annoy or irritate.

To love our enemies,

In the face of their anger and malice.


So, Lord, nourish our faith

That we might have love

To show others

The love Christ has shown us.


Living God, thank you that

You hold us together in love.

We are the body of Christ.

You help us to grow and mature.

We are nurtured by faith.

You develop our compassion.

We are called to serve.

You make us active and strong.

We are challenged to love.


Prayers from the Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship


Reading: Isaiah 58:6 – 11

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
 and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
 and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

Hymn: A New Commandment (StF 242)


A new commandment I give unto you,

That you love one another as I have loved you,

That you love one another as I have loved you.

By this the world shall know that you are my disciples,

If you have love one for another,

By this the world shall know that you are my disciples,

If you have love one for another.

Anonymous, words and music © Paul Leddington Wright, reproduced under CCLI licence no.214226.


Reading: Matthew 25:31 – 40

The Judgement of the Nations

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 


Most of us have seen more of our homes, this year, than we could possibly have expected when 2020 dawned. On March 23, the Prime Minister announced lockdown, with the memorable strapline ‘Stay home, stay safe’. So we did, our lives suddenly limited to our own four walls plus, if we were lucky, a garden and a pleasant place to walk for our hour’s daily exercise.

But what about those who had no home to stay in? In some ways, that was an even more amazing story. ‘Everybody in!’ was the slogan, and suddenly the Government made money available for street homeless people to move off the pavements into hotel accommodation, which was not being used for its usual purposes. And the vast majority of street homeless folk found the protection they needed. In the early stages of the pandemic, only three homeless people died of COVID-19 in the north-west – still three too many, but if no-one had taken decisive action early on, it could have been so much worse.

‘Everybody in!’ was followed by ‘Everybody out!’ as the hotels began to need their bedspaces again. But it wasn’t back out onto the streets. For many who had been street-homeless at the start of the pandemic, it was out into proper self-contained accommodation, with support to find health care and work. The pandemic created the unexpected opportunity for many to rebuild their lives.

So why do we still need to remember the homeless on Homelessness Sunday? Sadly, the situation has not stood still. New people are finding their way onto the street already, people who have lost their housing or who have had to leave home because of domestic abuse. The number of homeless people on the pavements of Manchester is creeping up again, and many of them have become homeless very recently.

We need to continue reflecting on the many passages of Scripture which tell us that it is not God’s will for people to be homeless. But why should God be concerned about this? To explore this, we need to think about what God wants for people.

God knows that we need to be safe, to be well, to be part of a family or a community, if we are going to flourish and become the people we are meant to be. And society is built in such a way that all this is there for us through our homes.  When I’ve visited people in hospital, they will so often say ‘I’m getting better, but what I really need is to be home’. And we are particularly shocked by crimes that undermine people’s safety at home, whether that’s burglary or domestic violence. To be homeless is to be cut off from many of the ways in which we live life in all its fullness – and that is not justice. It is not what God wants for us.

God understands the insecurity and anxieties of being homeless, because in Jesus, God has had that experience. ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have their nests’, says Jesus, ‘but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’. For Jesus, homeless wandering was part of his response to God’s call, but it still meant that he shared in the daily struggle for survival that homeless people so often face. And God does not want us to have to waste our days worrying about ‘what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or what we shall wear’ (Matthew 6:25). God promises that our needs will be taken care of – but makes it clear that this promise will come true as we take care of one another. As Teresa of Avila said, nearly five hundred years ago, ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours – yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out to the world’.

So how can we make a difference? We can find out about homelessness near where we live – what is actually going on? We can support charities that help homeless people find homes – this is a better option than giving directly to people living on the street. We can find out if there is a hostel or a refuge near our church, and see if we can develop a link. And if we feel that this is too big a problem for us as individuals or local churches, we can keep reminding our elected leaders that they need to do everything they can to help people find homes. Above all, we can keep on praying, for those who are homeless, for those who support them, for those who have the power to make real change and build a more just society. For this is part of what we mean when we pray, week by week, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’.

If you would like to know more about the lived experience of homeless people, and you have Internet access, this video clip comes from the Rev.Grace Thomas, who is an Anglican priest in Whalley Range.

Hymn: Have you heard God’s voice? (StF 662)

Have you heard God’s voice; has your heart been stirred? 
Are you still prepared to follow? 
Have you made a choice to remain and serve, 
though the way be rough and narrow? 

Will you walk the path that will cost you much

And embrace the pain and sorrow?

Will you trust in One who entrusts to you

The disciples of tomorrow?

Will you watch the news with the eyes of faith 
and believe it could be different? 
Will you share your views using words of grace? 
Will you leave a thoughtful imprint? 

Will you walk the path that will cost you much?

 In your city streets will you be God’s heart? 
Will you listen to the voiceless? 
Will you stop and eat, and when friendships start, 
will you share your faith with the faithless? 

Will you walk the path that will cost you much?

 Will you use your voice; will you not sit down 
when the multitudes are silent? 
Will you make a choice to stand your ground 
when the crowds are turning violent? 

Will you walk the path that will cost you much?

 Words and Music © 2008 Jacqueline G.Jones, reproduced under CCLI licence no.214226


A prayer for homeless people

Lord God, hear our prayer for all women and men, boys and girls who do not have homes.

For those sleeping in doorways and parks, in hostels and night shelters.

For families who were evicted because they couldn’t pay their rent.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.

For those who are afraid and without hope.

Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet.

And guide us in what we should do to help them.



A prayer for change

Today we offer our hopes and dreams to the God who gives us all that is good.

We pray that the proactive stance of national and local leaders in moving thousands of people off the streets during the pandemic may continue to make a difference

We pray that there may be more and more ways to support homeless people, through paid work or through volunteering

We pray that you will strengthen the partnerships between local authorities and other organisations who work together to end homelessness

We pray that you will continually remind us to be generous, out of all that you have given us

We pray that you will help us to live as Jesus lived, aware of the needs of our neighbours for love and community, active in responding to people who cry out for justice.

Gracious God,

You love all your children

You are a home to all who are in need or trouble.

Inspire your church with the spirit of Christ’s love.

Empower us to battle the injustice of homelessness with compassion, and to show your kindness to every person in need.

Protect us and protect everyone, especially the most vulnerable, from illness at this time of pandemic.

Give us your wisdom and your steadfast perseverance in overcoming evil

And help us to live as your disciples,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord


Prayers based on resources from the Church Homeless Trust.


The Lord’s Prayer


Hymn: When I needed a neighbour, were you there? (StF 256)

When I needed a neighbour
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
Were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty
Were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
Were you there?

I was cold, I was naked
Were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
Were you there?

When I needed a shelter
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
Were you there?

When I needed a healer
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
Were you there?

Wherever you travel
I’ll be there, I’ll be there
Wherever you travel, I’ll be there
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
I’ll be there

Sydney Carter (1915 – 2004), © 1965, Stainer & Bell Ltd, reproduced under CCLI licence no.214226.


Prayer of Blessing

Dear Lord,

Make us kindly in thought, gentle in word, generous in action.

Teach us that it is better to give than to receive.

Strengthen us in love, and make us more like you.

And let us know your blessing as we seek to do your will

In caring for the vulnerable and sharing your goodness,

Through Jesus, our brother



A question to reflect on during the week ahead: