Housing Crisis Songs of Praise


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Housing Crisis

With Britain facing a housing crisis, Josie d'Arby looks at how the church can make a difference. And to mark Lent, the archbishop of York discusses forgiveness.


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'Built in 12 weeks, for less than £1,000 each,

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'these houses seem one answer to the housing drive.

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'With a living room, dining annexe and kitchen downstairs...'

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Sound familiar? Well, that was in 1952, when Britain was in the grip

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of a housing crisis, following the devastation of the Second World War.

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Well, today we face a different battle.

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A housing shortage deepened by spiralling rent

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and house prices beyond the reach of many people.

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I'm in the Lake District to find out how churches can help and hear how

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a Good Samaritan made a difference for one family in Bristol.

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She named this figure and I was just like...

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They knew how much this house was worth,

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but they chose to be really generous.

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Also in the programme, Claire meets

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The Man With the Golden Flute, Sir James Galway,

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who performs a beautiful arrangement of The Lord's My Shepherd.

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And, with Lent underway, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu

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tackles the subject of forgiveness

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in a powerful interview with Maureen Greaves, whose husband was murdered.

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I had no room for anger.

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The two men that killed Alan, I put them into God's hands.

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There's an Irish flavour to our music today,

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with celebrations for St Patrick's Day happening on Friday.

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But first, a joyful worship song reflecting the wonder of God

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and his sacrifice for us.

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Throughout the history of Britain,

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the church has been at the forefront of social change.

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More recently, campaigning against modern-day slavery,

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poverty and setting up food banks.

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So how are some church communities

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choosing to respond to the housing crisis?

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The Faith in Affordable Housing project works with churches

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of all denominations, advising them on the sale of land and property

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for the benefit of local people.

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Churches are centres of the local community

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and quite often the church building or church land

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can be quite an emotive subject for many.

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But actually, I think if we work to bring congregations with us

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in the developments that happen,

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it can be a really positive contribution,

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not just to the local community

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but to the role of the church in that community.

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Here in Ambleside, Faith in Affordable Housing advised on

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the conversion of an old Methodist chapel

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into 15 flats for local people.

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I think there we've got an example

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of keeping the tradition associated with the building, but giving it

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a new use and making sure it's still at the heart of the community.

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Eight miles from Ambleside is the pretty village of Coniston.

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Here, the sale of church land has made a difference to Leanne

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and her family who found themselves in desperate circumstances.

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I love that!

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Tell me about the house you used to live in, your old house.

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Well, it was old and the walls, they were crumbling.

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There was only the wallpaper that was holding it together.

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-I had to share a room with Sam when he came along.

-Aw...

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Leanne, listening to your children talk about the old house,

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what does that make you feel like?

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The house that we did live in was actually a very nice house,

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but it was very old.

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Our last winter there was 2010,

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which was the coldest winter on record.

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We used to put the children to bed with their dressing gowns on.

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Sam's getting cold thinking about it!

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It was. It was very cold.

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Before you knew you got the chance to move, what was the situation?

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Desperate. Absolutely desperate.

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Why was there nowhere for you to move to?

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There's just not enough housing.

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Coniston is tourist-based and there are a lot of second homes,

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a lot of holiday homes,

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which is great because we do need them for our income as well,

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but it's now put people, local people,

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out of the market to buy or even rent.

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So, that's not a nice situation to be in?

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No, we needed to find somewhere to live.

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At their lowest ebb,

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Leanne and her family were offered a new home in affordable accommodation

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for local people built on land sold by the Diocese of Carlisle.

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Over the years, I've seen so many friends leaving the village

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and there was nowhere here for them to live.

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With the church developing the land, I know there's somewhere for

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my children to stay in Coniston when it's their turn.

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Sam, what do you like about this house?

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-I like having my own bedroom.

-Aw, that must be nice.

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It is a beautiful close.

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What do you think about the fact that it's all happened

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because of something the church did?

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Well, it's actually a miracle of God's work

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that the church have chosen to give up their land for houses,

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so we can have a better life.

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And why is that important, that they did that?

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Well, it's Christianity.

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Jesus, well, he's given us a miracle and he's given us a home.

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And it's just really, really good.

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We're now in the second week of Lent,

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the period when Christians pause to reflect on their faith.

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For the next few weeks, we're doing exactly that,

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with a special series of interviews

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presented by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

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One of my great joys as I travel around the country

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is the opportunity to meet people who inspire me.

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I hope that by hearing their stories and faith, you too will find

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your own lives enriched and your faith strengthened.

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Today, I'm meeting Maureen Greaves, whose forgiving spirit when faced

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with a shocking and traumatic event in her life is an example to us all.

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On Christmas Eve 2012,

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Maureen's husband Alan was walking to his church,

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St Saviour's in Sheffield, to play the organ for midnight mass.

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But Alan never made it to the service.

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He was brutally attacked on the way and died three days later.

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His two killers are currently serving jail sentences.

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My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster

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will come to understand and experience

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the love and kindness of the God who made them in his own image...

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Despite this devastating loss, Maureen has continued the project

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she started with Alan, to provide for her community.

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-Good morning, Maureen. Are you well?

-I am.

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-Are you?

-Not so bad.

-For food bank?

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Two years ago, Maureen was awarded the British Empire Medal

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for that work. She's a true example of faith in action.

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The events of that Christmas Eve five years ago

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must still be with you, really?

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How do you reflect on that event now?

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A number of people believe that

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God, in a sense, had deserted Alan and deserted me.

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I don't believe that.

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I believe that God was with Alan.

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He was with him as he was being attacked,

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and he was with him as he was dying.

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And I very much believe he was with me and enabled me to

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go through a very long journey, really, especially the first year.

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And I still miss Alan very, very much.

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We were a very ordinary couple,

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but it was a very extraordinary marriage too

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because we were truly in love when we married

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and we were still in love when he died.

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So the loss has been huge.

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And I live with his memories every day.

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Is it true that you have never expressed anger?

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It is, actually. I know it might sound quite strange.

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And I think I was so heartbroken and so full of grief

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that I had no room for anger.

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The two men that killed Alan, I put them into God's hands.

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I was able to leave them there. And so, no, I haven't felt anger.

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Some may say this is quite extraordinary.

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"Here is Maureen.

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"Husband has died.

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"Here are the two young men.

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"She's putting them into God's hands.

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"Isn't she crazy?"

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I just had a real, real desire to forgive them.

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And in fact when I thought of Jonathan and Ashley,

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it was always with a sense of, "Father, look after them

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"and bring them to a true knowledge of your forgiveness for them.

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"And a true awareness of how much you love them."

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-And I've never regretted doing that.

-OK.

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Don't get the impression that every single day was easy. It wasn't.

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You do have your questions sometimes and you do have your doubts,

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but I just clung onto God's hand almost,

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and just remembered who this God was

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I'd served and worshipped for 40 years.

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I have to walk past the place where Alan died nearly every day.

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And so I've turned it into a little prayer time.

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I pray for many people,

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but I especially pray for Ashley and Jonathan.

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Because no-one is beyond God's grace.

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Everyone can be forgiven, no matter what they've done.

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Ooh, look at that. There's hardly any weeds left in that.

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Maureen, you threw yourself into work in the community, work

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which you and Alan had set up.

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Now, did that help in the healing process?

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It has helped in the healing process.

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The community project that I run with St Saviour's Church

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is to try and meet people's needs.

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And so my hope is to continue the work to reach out to the lonely,

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the lost and those that have the least in our community.

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-Well, Maureen, it's been a real delight to talk to you...

-Thank you.

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..to share your understanding of forgiveness,

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of life and its traumas

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and yet still finding the life of faith holding you together.

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-So it's been a real pleasure.

-Thank you.

-Wonderful, wonderful.

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-Keep doing it!

-I will. I will indeed.

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This coming Friday, 17 March, is St Patrick's Day, so I'm here in

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Patterdale in the Lake District, once known as Saint Patrick's Dale.

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According to legend, Patrick spent time in this area,

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converting many local people to Christianity.

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The church is named after him,

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and here he is in one of its stained-glass windows.

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So, in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland,

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here are The Priests with the Irish hymn,

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Ag Criost an Siol - To Christ the Seed.

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We continue with the Irish theme now with our next guest,

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known the world over as The Man With the Golden Flute.

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Claire caught up with Sir James Galway

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on his recent trip back home to Northern Ireland.

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Let me take you back to your childhood. Growing up in Belfast.

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A very musical childhood.

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Yeah, it was. The street I grew up in, everybody played something.

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There were very few people who didn't play anything.

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Your father and your grandfather, they were steeped in music as well?

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My dad played the accordion. My grandad played the flute

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and I think he must have been quite a good flute player

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because I think he played in the opera now and again.

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Because my uncle Joe who taught me the flute said

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he used to go and listen to my grandad play.

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Take me back to whenever you started the flute.

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What age were you when you started to play?

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I think about nine, something like that.

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I was in a flute band to begin with,

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then I played in the Belfast Military,

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and then I joined the 39th Old Boys, which was a big flute band.

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I really enjoyed it and I always practised.

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And then I began to think that this is a gift from God

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and you should not refuse a gift.

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You should look after it.

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Do you ever tire of performing?

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No, it's great. I really like performance.

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I like to get out there.

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You know what's great about it,

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you practice something and it's a disaster.

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And then a week later, it begins to hang together.

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Two weeks later, you've really got it up and running.

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And three weeks later it's ready to go.

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And you get out there and play,

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and all the things that you practised come to fruition.

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Before you go on-stage, do you have a routine?

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You have things that you do right before you go on to perform?

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Yeah, I do.

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But generally the last thing I do is pray to bless the performance.

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Now, I always like to play at the end of a concert Danny Boy

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because I think this is like a prayer in music.

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And I make a joke with the audience. You know, I tell them,

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"Now, listen, you don't have to get down on your knees

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"or hold your hands together or close your eyes

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"because the master says, 'Watch and pray.' "

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MUSIC: Danny Boy

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The piece you're going to perform for us,

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The Lord's My Shepherd, what does that particular piece mean to you?

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Well, first of all, it's a beautiful psalm.

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And secondly I thought, you know, this is the Queen's favourite song.

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So, if she's looking in, I'm playing it for her too.

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And performing alongside your wife Jeanne - how special is that?

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Yeah, it's nice. Yeah, it's very special.

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The housing crisis is a UK-wide problem, involving

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a complex set of issues, affecting both rural and urban communities.

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But ultimately it's about people.

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Last year, Rachel and her family were told out of the blue

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that they had to leave their rented home in Bristol.

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Within two weeks, we went from,

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"It might be a possibility that your house will be sold,"

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to, "The house is sold.

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"We'll have to get somewhere else to live very quickly."

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A house would come on the market for rent

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and it would be snapped up straightaway.

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You know, the prices have just gone out of control.

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And so we started thinking,

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"We're just going to have to move somewhere else."

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Obviously people have to up and leave their homes

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in much, much worse situations than ours.

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You know, people have to flee warzones and cross borders.

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It wouldn't have been the end of the world if we'd had to do it,

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but, for us, we were so well established.

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The community that we were very involved with,

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the church that we were part of.

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All of this, all of a sudden, gone.

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Just before uprooting their family

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for a property they didn't really want,

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Rachel received a call from her church, with news of a house

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being offered for rent in Bristol by a member of the congregation.

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When I walked in to this very house, I thought, "This is it.

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"This is the house I want our family to live in."

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And I literally looked at every room

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with this huge smile on my face.

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The best thing was when I spoke to my now landlady and she said,

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"Look, this house has been such a blessing to us and our family

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"and we want it to be a blessing to someone else in turn.

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"So we want to let it out at..." And then she named this figure.

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And I was like...

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They knew how much this house was worth,

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but they chose to be really generous.

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I guess, for me, the ongoing challenge just in living in

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this house, living in this incredible answer to our prayer

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is that if we feel prompted to be generous, then we need to do it.

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We need to be generous in turn because you just never know

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when we might be the answer to someone else's prayer.

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Next week, with the NHS under pressure,

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Aled experiences the highs and lows of life at Southport Hospital.

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But we end today with an inspiring hymn that urges us to build a house,

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not in the literal sense,

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but as Christians to bear witness to our unity in Christ.

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With Britain facing a housing crisis, Josie d'Arby visits the Lake District to see how the church can make a difference. And to mark the season of Lent, Dr John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, discusses the subject of forgiveness.

There is music to celebrate St Patrick's Day and a performance by flautist Sir James Galway.

Music:

Here I Am to Worship from Hackney Empire, London There Is a Hope from Keswick Convention, Keswick Come People of the Risen King from Ballydown Presbyterian Church, Banbridge Ag Criost An Siol by The Priests from Down Cathedral, Downpatrick The Lord's My Shepherd by Sir James and Lady Galway When I Needed a Neighbour from Romsey Abbey Let Us Build a House from St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen.