Speech delivered at the Sheffield Cathedral on 07/12/18
Good afternoon. And Merry Christmas to you all.
I’m told that I’m definitely not supposed to be delivering a sermon this afternoon.
Which you should all be thankful for!
I am also thankful that there are plenty of people here who will be able to drown out the sound of my singing.
My singing voice aside…. this is a wonderful time of the year.
And there is no better place than this Cathedral, or a more fitting congregation than those here, to reflect upon the spirit of Christmas.
Cathedrals and places of worship root us in place.
They embody the best of community.
And whilst in this internet age where networks are often digital rather than physical we are reminded by congregating, as we are here today, that place matters.
And community is bound by a common purpose.
A simple purpose to thrive.
For many of us, Christmas is a time when all roads lead home and we look forward to enjoying the company of those closest to us.
At Christmas, everything takes on a special significance, whether that’s decorating the house, shopping for food, or watching films together as a family.
There is no other occasion quite like it, and – despite my obsession with tidiness – I’ve often thought that the only mess worth tolerating is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day.
To some extent, anyway.
I am very lucky. I will be at home, surrounded by loved ones this Christmas.
Not everybody, including many people here today, is that lucky.
Not everybody has that chance to thrive or to feel part of a community.
Christmas is a period of celebration. But also for reflection.
For too many people, this is the hardest time of the year.
Coupled with cold dark nights,
debt and anxiety
all cast long shadows.
I’m told that in the Sheffield City Region 1,200 people are homeless. 2,000 are living in temporary accommodation. And approximately 100 people are sleeping rough. And these are the ones we know about.
The charity Crisis reports that there are 131,000 children in this country without their own home.
They are part of the hidden homeless.
Those that live on the goodwill of friends and family.
And they come from all walks of life.
For all of those people, Christmas this year will serve to remind them of what they don’t have.
But there is hope. There is a community.
And that is why I am proud to be here this afternoon.
The Cathedral Archer Project is one such beacon of this hope.
And the support, the community, that you as volunteers, as sponsors and donors of the project bring help it to shine brightly.
Thank you to all of you for your support.
By providing friendship, fellowship, food and – for many – a future you are helping our community to thrive.
In a country with the world’s fifth largest economy I just wish we didn’t have to rely on it. But we do.
I will do everything I can to help tackle the issue. And I believe that by working together we can achieve great things.
Last month, we held the Sheffield City Region’s first Homelessness Summit. The event brought together our councils, MPs, South Yorkshire Housing Association, Crisis as well as projects such as the Cathedral Archer Project.
We also heard directly from those who have first-hand experience of homelessness.
What came through loud and clear was that we must work together.
We must speak with one voice to Government.
We must ensure that we don’t allow people to slip through the cracks.
And we must take what works well in one place and spread that learning far and wide.
If we do that we can achieve our aim to end homelessness in South Yorkshire.
It’s not going to be an easy task.
But – if we come together as a community. One connected by a common purpose where we can all thrive – then we will be successful.
So. Throughout the Christmas period we should remember that we are part of something much bigger than our own family unit.
We should remember that there are others less fortunate than ourselves.
And we should remember that Christmas is a time for hope. A time for forgiveness. A time to rekindle old friendships.
And a time to celebrate.
As we shout at the in-laws, open that second bottle of fizz and tuck into the turkey,
or nut roast for the vegetarians,
or a vegan friendly plant based meat alternative,
let us remember, wherever we are, that amidst the chaos and the noise we have much to be thankful for.
That is my Christmas message.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
– Mayor Dan Jarvis