Social Action is a core part of the ministry of the Church, as has been the case for millenia.
This kind of work is understood as a practical expression of the love of God. There needs to be integration between our words about God’s love and the way we express this and pass this on in attitudes and actions towards the people and world around us. If we understand that God’s love is for all people and all creation then this needs to be expressed practically.
We find our inspiration in the person of Jesus, both his life and his teaching. Particularly of note is the value he gave to each individual person: his actions and words show that he understood that all have worth and value whether insiders and elite or for various reasons on the margins of society. Christian social action seeks to follow this example.
Many of our churches are already listening to their communities to discern how they can work in partnership with other groups and individuals for the wellbeing of their community. Others are beginning to ask the question about how they can engage more fully with their communities. Encourgaing and supporting churches in community engagement is a current focus, under the banner of ‘On your Doorstep’. Following a major event in September 2015, we are exploring the most helpful ways to support churches in this work and are always open to come alongside a church to help them think through the possilbilities. A major resource is the ‘On Your Doorstep’ website which shares stories and best practice from churches as well as signosting organisations that have the potential to be useful partners in all kinds of community issues.
Housing and Homelessness
One major emphasis is that of housing and homelessness. It is a fundamental right that everyone has a safe, warm and secure place to call home. The church has been a part of various pieces of work in Gloucestershire to provide that basic right to all. There are a number of charities that have been set up by churches over the years and we have been involved to differing degrees in several of these.
The current focus is on street homelessness with the Diocese playing a key part in the setting up of the Soup Run in the winter of 2015. Conversations are ongoing with an ecumenical group, in close collaboration with the local council, to consider the best ways to support the growing number of homeless in our region. Similar iniatives are taking place across the diocese.
Another basic need is that of food. In the current economic climate churches have become very aware that many families are going without because they have not got enough money to feed themselves in the week. In order to resolve the problem churches have set up a number of schemes including foodbanks in Gloucester, Cheltenham and the Cotswolds. Many other areas have food larders or share schemes that also offer a similar service.
Food is wasted by the large manufacturers and supermarkets because their products have been wrongly packaged or are too near the sell by date. A group of organisations including the County Council and Churches Together have developed a way in which the Fairshare organisation can deliver this surplus food intended for waste to needy groups such as older people’s lunch clubs and school breakfast clubs for a small fee to cover overheads. This scheme has been running since 2011 and is looking to achieve greater coverage across the county.
Many of our churches are already listening to their communities to discern how they can work in partnership with other groups and individuals for the wellbeing of their community. Others are beginning to ask the question about how they can engage more fully with their communities. A particular challenge is to consider how we can ‘be with’ our community in order to do things together, rather than seeking to ‘do things for’ our communities. The former approach takes linger in the planning but is more lilely to have a significant positive impact on a community due to more significant foundations and relationship building in advance of any launch. It is often better recieved by communities. In the following link, Revd Dr Sam Wells advocates ‘being with’ as best practice in community engagement as he explores Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Lecture notes.
Since their support of our 2015 event, ‘On Your Doorstep’, we are woking in close collaboration with the Banrwood Trust’s ‘You’re Welcome’ campaign. This seeks to support anyone, including churches, wanting to become involved in building inclusive community in thier local area. They offer a variety of training events which are extremely helpful for churches seeking to reach out in this kind of way and are willing to be invited into conversatons with a church wanting to prioritise this area of work. Likewise Cate Williams is also more than happy to visit churches.
Peter Cheesman – Civil Protection Advisor (Churches Together in Gloucestershire)
email@example.com / 01452 740533
Peter has 14 years’ experience in Emergency Management, ranging from initiating a Community Resilience Team for a village with a population of 1,100 to sharing that experience for a number of local authorities and the Civil Contingency Secretariat. He is involved in the recruiting and training of volunteers in the Beacon awarded Gloucestershire Accredited Volunteers Scheme. He is involved in reviewing plans for Humanitarian Centres – Rest Centres, Survivors Receptions Centres, Family & friends Reception Centres and Humanitarian Assistance Centres. He believes in in the involvement all appropriate partners in this area – Police, Fire, Ambulance, LA Emergency Management, and Voluntary Organisations to provide an integrated response to those affected. This is whilst acknowledging the different organisational cultures and priorities of the partners.
Peter believes it is the part of the duty of faith communities to respond to both in major incidents in cooperation with LRF Partners and to support Community Resilience initiatives without prejudice or discrimination between those of any faith and those with no faith. In this context, without compromising their beliefs, faith groups should not exploit the influence they have over their members or the vulnerable. He also believes that the Resilience Community should use the expertise, experience and position in the community of volunteers from Faith Communities without compromising their position of neutrality to different faiths and none.
How2Help is a Church of England initiative, bringing together as a catalyst current best practice in providing Christian care in local communities with the resources and knowledge needed to multiply those good works across the country over the coming years.