Sunday, 16 August 2015

Songs of Praise does Calais

Migrants Church in Calais

There's a recurring sketch on the Catherine Tate Show where she plays a neurotic middle class mother (Aga Saga Woman) who lives in fear of taking her two neurotic children anywhere, in case they have to rub shoulders with anyone outside their very restricted, protected social circle. One day, driving along in their SUV, they take a wrong turn into a rougher part of London ('Good God in heaven above... we seem to have driven into a place called "Tott-en-ham"') and start to panic when a man with long hair approaches with a bucket of water to wash their windscreen as they sit at the traffic lights.

I had a neurotic middle class woman moment on holiday this summer, so I'm not going to judge Aga Saga Woman. Returning via the Eurotunnel from France in the middle of the so called 'Migrant Crisis', we saw migrants in small groups walking the sides of roads near the Calais motorway as we tried to find out how to exit 'Cite Europe' (our compulsory pre-tunnel middle class shopping trip for all things French). I suppose I imagined desperate people seeing an opportunity, an English car going slowly round a French roundabout, and I had one of those anxious travel moments and blurted out, 'do you think we should lock the doors?', to which I received the terse reply 'don't be ridiculous'. I feel pretty embarrassed about it now.

So well done the BBC, who this evening broadcast part of their long running Christian programme, 'Songs of Praise', from the migrant camp in Calais, a place where focus and hope are centred on something much more important even than life, as one of the migrants explained - that is, in the heart of their makeshift church. Well done, because the political is apt to eclipse the personal and without alternative coverage, this time from a specifically religious viewpoint, one is in danger of picking up the media whiff of panic, the fear that 'the swarm' is about to descend our borders, the swarm of faceless, unnerving foreigners...

Songs of Praise is often criticised for being twee - shots of older people singing hymns is hardly going to set the world on fire....or is it? The juxtaposition of scenes of migrants worshipping amid the uncertainty and mess of life, with the hymn 'There's a wideness to God's mercy' and Revd. Giles Fraser, a priest from London emerging from the makeshift church, announcing 'these are my brothers and sisters in Christ', topped of by a very middle class lady from a church in Kent explaining that if it weren't for Jesus, she wouldn't be there; and you did get the strange idea that actually this Christian gospel, this thing we sing and pray each Sunday in church, is in fact radical, inclusive and potentially world changing.

So while some Politicians have felt compelled 'not to do God', I'm glad that the BBC 'did Calais', and proud to be part of the universal Church of Christ, the church that meets in tents on the sides of motorways, the one where we are one through the One who became a refugee as a child and who once declared 'foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'.

1 comment:

  1. Well done BBC Songs of Praise and nicely put Claire. What a shame there were many opposed to the filming in Calais at the very least it was educational. I sincerely hope that awareness has been increased as a result of the programme and those opposed may start to feel differently. I haven't watched Songs of Praise for decades but wouldn't have missed this for the world.