God the builder: a counter-cultural hope in the midst of the housing crisis

The Centre for Theology & Community l and tagged , , l

Sarah HuttLast week, CTC published a new resource to help churches get to grips with the often intimidating issue of housing. Here, our Housing Coordinator, Sarah, reminds us that small beginnings might also be cause for great rejoicing…

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4.10

“There is a particular sigh that haunts anyone working on certain issues. Climate change, the Housing crisis, the financial system: they all tend to generate conversations which start small and rapidly balloon out into the impossible and depressing: “Well, the real problem is The Banks… Or Central Government… Or the whole construction of the financial system. Or Globalisation (sigh).” And we can’t do anything about that, can we? If we can’t do anything about that, then what’s the point of doing anything at all? *Sigh*.

Zechariah is such an antidote to that kind of sigh – the sigh that can so easily paralyse and sap hope. Zerubabbel faces a huge task. He has returned with the first wave of Jewish exiles and has the task of rebuilding the temple, but is only just beginning to measure out the walls (using a plumb line). In the face of this overwhelming task, the Lord does not sigh. The Message translation is even more robust: “Who dares despise the day of small beginnings?”

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Next May, London will choose a Mayor – and with housing being the hottest issue in the Capital, this Mayor will have a hefty challenge to tackle. Over the last seven years, the average house price has gone up by 44 per cent. 100,000 children will be homeless across England this Christmas. London Citizens’ have made housing their key campaign, and at CTC we are throwing our thinking into how the Church can act to help solve the houses crisis.

So we’ve published Building Something Better: why and how churches can respond to the housing crisis. I’ve written about what the Bible and Catholic Social Teaching say on housing, and how churches can begin to respond, starting with listening and prayer.

But it can seem so small. We think that unless we can solve the Whole Housing Crisis, we’ve failed. Providing two homes when there are two million people on waiting lists seems so pitiful, so much so that we would rather not engage with the problem at all. Yet who dares despise the day of small beginnings? One of my favourite quotes in this resource is from Pope Francis:

“Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends. What can I do? A lot! You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!”

This hope is essential if we are to campaign in a way which reflects the Gospel – which truly does believe that it is God who is reconciling all things to himself, not us. As Psalm 127 tells us: “unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.”

Hope can seem foolish. It is despised by the safer voices of cynicism and fatalism. It is deeply counter-cultural. But who dares despise the day of small beginnings, if the Lord is rejoicing to see the work begin?”

If you would like to find out more about CTC’s housing initiative, please contact Sarah at for more information.

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