Image is of the Bricklayers Hut in Jakarta.
A man who had been stranded on a deserted island for two years was at last found. The media accompanied the rescue team, and when they arrived they saw that the man had built three huts. When asked what the huts represented, the man explained.
"Well, this hut is my home. And that hut over there is where I go to church."
The reporters seemed moved by the revelation that he had a place of worship. But then one asked, "What is that hut over there?"
"That's the church I don’t go to!”
Life is full of preferences. Some more obvious than others, like choosing our favourite ice cream flavour, or watching our preferred rugby team. Some are more deep-rooted, predilections that we don’t even know we have. These are the kind that influence our judgements, decision and yearnings without us even noticing. Over time our environment and upbringing has its way of honing a ‘comfortable place’ for us. Consequently, as we go about our daily lives, we tend to look for reminders of our comfortable place; subconsciously searching for familiarity, comfort and safety. In many ways, this is a good thing, it can help us ‘get on with life’, without getting bogged down by decisions that in the great scheme of things aren’t that important. In other ways, it can be harmful.
Unchecked partialities and bias can lead us to become insular and narrowminded. In the worse cases, it can lead to the exclusion of others because they seem different, odd or even ‘wrong’ to us. This is where the tension and dynamic of life occurs, in all its complexity, diversity and colour. So how do we avoid the sinful reaction to the other’s uniqueness, and reflect something of the impartiality and generosity of God in our daily lives. In the Epistle of James (ch 3.17) we are reminded that there is wisdom in these things that we long to see, “but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
One of the things I have delighted in recently is seeing the enthusiasm from all churches in Truro to be more aware of the differences between our churches, but at the same time acknowledging that our preferences are secondary to a more important shared truth. That we all find our identity in Christ. And that we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
In c.62AD Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus saying “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul’s letter is a wonderful reminder that the most important thing for churches is to proclaim aloud that we are united under one Lord – we may have a difference in worship style and practice, some will prefer drumkits, and others prefer robed choirs, some will cope with a 10min sermon, and others anything less than a 30min preach feels like being short-changed – these things only go to reflect God’s blessing, to be ourselves under God. Behind it all is the truth that Paul wrote in his letter.
On November 30th at 7.30pm all Christians in Truro, from all denominations and none, will descend upon Truro Methodist Church to pray and worship together. Witnessing to our single universal statement of faith that Jesus is Lord. I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening, and that it lights the second beacon for us in this year of prayer for a shared vision under Christ for our city.
I really want to encourage you to come. I’m telling you now, well in advance, so we can all make sure it’s in our diaries. Please come. Don’t let this be the hut that represents “… the church I don’t go to!”
Yours in Christ
For more information about Churches Together in Truro go to our new website www.churchestogethertruro.co.uk
A year ago someone came to the food bank in crisis because of an issue with debt. Last week she came back. Her husband had left to go off with their babysitter, leaving her with three young children to look after and their finances in a mess.
This is just one typical story. There are as many personal stories as there are foodbank customers, but the general common denominator is that people, self-respecting people who wish for nothing more than a normal life with a job and a happy home, fall into crisis and visit the Foodbank as a last resort, as a result of a referral from another charity or agency. It becomes all the more poignant where children are involved, and they make up one third of those we feed.
Truro Foodbank fed over 19,000 meals last year to 2,121 people in crisis who were referred to us by other charities and agencies.
We look set for an increase in that number this year. In each case those coming to us receive a food parcel with a three day supply of nutritionally balanced food and, just as importantly, a listening ear from one of our volunteers or staff and, where appropriate, and offer of prayer.
Truro Foodbank is just one over 400 Foodbanks within the network of the Trussell Trust, which last year gave 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. Out of humble origins has grown this nationwide movement that has not only fed the hungry but has raised the consciousness of society to the issue of food poverty in our supposedly affluent country.
I can say with complete confidence that this has been a prophetic move of God, working through his church. I was privileged to be one of the trustees of the Trussell Trust in 2004 when the nationwide Foodbank network was launched, with a vision to grow 50 Foodbanks within five years from a starting point of one. It seemed huge at the time and was rooted simply in the faith that this was what God was calling us to do, rather than in the availability of finance (there was none) or even substantiated fact. There were no statistics to prove the need and indeed to begin with there was opposition in some quarters from those who said that food poverty did not exist in their communities; God alone knew the real need behind closed doors, which only became apparent once the early Foodbanks were opened.
The launch of the Foodbank network was inspired by Jesus’s words in Matthew 25:36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”. This was the spark that lit the flame that became the fire, and that’s what happens when Christians take small, faltering steps of faith in response to a vision God has given them. God provides the growth.
And so back to Truro. Truro Foodbank has grown from within the churches, with All Saints Highertown and Truro Methodist Church providing amazing support as the base and outlets for the operation, with a number of other churches also generously providing volunteers and financial support. But it’s also the community at large that provides so much of the vital lifeblood of the Foodbank – the ongoing donation of a tin here, a bag of pasta there as part of a regular shopping trip, or when we have food collections or donations at times such as harvest.
Now however, for the first time, we are starting to see food donations decline, even as our numbers fed look set to rise with the arrival of universal credit. This is not peculiar to Truro, it’s a national trend and perhaps is a result of people’s resources being stretched. Our other vital needs are for finance and for volunteers. Our finances are under pressure, but are essential in order to fund our overheads and our small but very dedicated team of part-time foodbank staff – Bob, Janet and Andy.
This continues to be God’s work, done in his way and trusting in his resources, as we witness to his name by feeding those in crisis. So thank you for the support of so many who will be reading this, and please go on. And if this is new to you, please consider joining the cause with donations of food, finance or time, as you are able.
You’ll be hearing a lot about the Foodbank over the next month, as we are calling this September “Foodbank Month” with a number of events going on.
For further information on how to donate or get involved, please visit https://truro.foodbank.org.uk
Chair of Trustees for Truro Foodbank
I’ve just finished reading an article about Glastonbury 2017. Every year, it’s bigger, it’s better, the acts are more sought after and tickets get sold on the secondary market for more money than before due to the sheer demand. Every year however there is something else that is bigger.
The immense pile of tents and camping equipment that is left behind. The article was about Cornwall Fire and Rescue and the trip they take to Glastonbury, along with a number of charities and organisations, to reclaim some of the thousands of tents that are left behind.
One could almost understand waking up from a heavy night in 2016, when it’s been raining all weekend, and your tent is half full of mud, and not wanting to take it down without making it more of a mess or even usable again, but I’m still not convinced that gives permission to abandon your tent and leave it for someone else to deal with it.
In August we have our own mini version of the same situation when Boardmasters hits Newquay.
Boardmasters wishes to explain in the next few years to be accepting 50,000 people meaning even more tents abandoned in the seaside town.
Earlier this week I read another article about such kind of waste, such throw away ideas. This time it was about the number of body boards which are just left on beaches throughout Cornwall. The article estimated around 14,000 body boards are bought and abandoned on beaches every year - just in Cornwall and not including the ones which are swept out into the sea.
Why do I feel so impassioned about this?
Because I believe we have a responsibility to the planet we live in.
You don’t need to be a Christian to believe we have this responsibility.
For me, I believe I was created by the same God who created this world and as such if he loves me (as I spoke about previously) then he loves this planet and he wants us to look after it. You don’t need to look hard in the Bible for scripture relating to our stewardship of the planet (Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8).
However, it is easy to see that ‘environmental stewardship’ is not something Christians claim for their own.
Whether you believe the world was brought into being by the word of a ‘Creator God’ or burst into life from a big bang, or whether you believe in ‘Mother Nature’ or we are all here by sheer happenstance I think most people find it hard to come up with reasonable points to say we don’t have some level of responsibility to not be wasteful with our planet and to not look after it.
I’d hope those reading this are not the kind who buy a tent and abandon it in a field or leave a body board on the beach for someone else to pick up but there is always something more we can do, be it recycle, reuse or upcycle; to find new ways to limit our packaging, remember our bags when we go shopping (something I awful at) or make sure when we put our rubbish out we cover it up so it doesn’t get attacked by seagulls and scattered across our roads.
Until next time.
Lydia Remick (LLM – Reader)
We will look back on this election as the beginning of a political and democratic paradigm shift. Today represents an existential alteration for the country, a change of heart, a change of character, a change of mood – for the better. And it represents a triumph over fear. Those young people (72% of 18 to 24s - see reference below) who voted yesterday are now participants in a revolution, a revolution over a politic of fear. Their violent (politically speaking) voice of defiance and change, may well have inaugurated an era in which their own voice is finally valued by the political elite; and their democratic freedom will be seen for what it is, a crucial part of the formation of a fairer and more just society.
Young people have for centuries been considered with suspicion. Plato (4th Century BCE) was once heard saying “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” Peter the Hermit in the 13th century said, “The young people think of nothing but themselves!” Such quotes exemplify a culture of fear, a culture that has conditioned young people into silence for a long time. I was told last week that if you have a room of primary school kids and ask them who can dance, thy all put their hand up, ask them who can draw, they all put their hands up, ask them who can sing and they all put their hands up. Ask a room full university students and the number of hands that go up are in single figures, and likely to be by those who have taken classes in those subjects. Ask the same question to room full of grown adults, and no one puts their hand up. What happens in that time? Why do we lose the joy of being free? We become frightened very quickly – or limited by someone or something.
We live in a culture that is quick to socialise children into a particular way of life, frightened of what might happen to them if we don’t incorporate them into social norms and expectations. As they grow older we move from being frightened for them, to being frightened of them. Frightened of what they might say or do if they are given too much power. In this culture of fear, young people are treated as sub-humans, whose thoughts and opinions don’t really count, or have no substance in what real life should look like. If you are a young person that voted in the General Election, let me tell you this... you are no longer seen and not heard. We hear you.
I am currently a priest for the Church of England. Before moving to Cornwall, I was also a Young Vocations Advisor for Bath & Wells diocese, and before being ordained, a Youth Leader for my local church. Since 2010 £387m has been cut from state youth provision (see reference below). In that time, I have seen youth centres come under threat of closure, youth workers lose their jobs because of cuts, and funding pots reduced that have previously gone to develop and sustain youth provision. Too often now, any development in youth provision is at the hands of a well written grant application to the Big Lottery.
And you know, young people shouldn’t care, they are justified in snubbing the system, what is it doing for them? For many years that’s how it was. And society didn’t really want this to change, a quiet population of young people suited a culture of classes and hierarchy. But yesterday, young people in large numbers have shown a counter-cultural politic of hope, dismissing any idea that they don’t care. They do.
What is so revolutionary is that this massive shift is in the context of a well-developed post-modern world, in which humans are largely engaged in the business of exercising power over one another, resulting in a violent world that is obsessed with the preservation of the self. It is a time when truth is a product of the beholder, and the idea of a shared truth is counter to a world where the individual reigns. This is really important in understanding why today’s General Election result could be seen as the indicator of a massive change in political character.
I am proud that my Christian faith stands as testimony to the power of young people, and their revolutionary attitude to justice. Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, David, Mary, Ruth and Esther are significant figures in the Bible who stood up for God’s plan for salvation, for justice and freedom. They were all too young to be heard initially, but were empowered and trusted by God to be voices against injustice and oppression, to speak out for the powerless (Jer 7:5-6). Check out Daniel (Daniel 1:3-6) who becomes an interpreter of dreams and visions, and leads an oppressive king to gain a vision of truth and justice. Look at David (1 Sam 17:33) who was dismissed as being too young, too foolish, too brash, but ended up being a symbol of courage and faithfulness to a whole nation. And Mary the mother of Jesus, who sang a song of defiance before a world of injustice and inequality; her revolutionary canticle has been sung in church ever since.
Just in my short time in Cornwall I have seen young people show how passionate they are about matters of justice, equality, fairness and social reform. I’ve spent time with a cohort of student architects and designers from Falmouth Uni who showed me how, as architects they can make the world a better place. I have seen young people come together to make a difference to global issues such as the refugee crisis, volunteer at foodbanks, crowdfund for local projects, and protest for change. Young people are indeed radical changemakers, persistent peacemakers, militant groundbreakers, generous caregivers, and courageous liberators… if we respect their place as such.
This General Election shows a shift in belief in young people. They will no longer go uncounted, or unmentioned. General Election campaigns of the future will incorporate young people more than ever before; because of the power of their voice, because of the power for change that lies in their hands, because of the power of influence. The tables have turned. We will now have a political system where the young will continue to teach us a valuable lesson – that their vote counts as well as ours.
I am proud of our young people. I am particularly proud of my own daughter who was counted in the 72% of 18 to 24 year olds who voted yesterday. They want change, they want a better future, and they will keep on until they get it.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made! That’s not me being egotistical, that’s me reminding myself. You see, we live in a world that is always telling us we are not good enough, unless you listen to L’Oreal who tell you ‘you’re worth it’. However, even this is usually while trying to sell you something to make you look better than you already do, because you are worth it, but not good enough as you are.
One thing I have struggled with my whole life is being good enough, being worth it. That’s why I need to remind myself constantly: I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Society has been brain washed into thinking we need to be critical of ourselves. The Huffington Post recently posted an article about the activist Feminista Jones, looking at the reaction she received on Twitter when she suggested that women should agree with compliments men gave them in the street – the kind of cat calls many women have to endure. According to the article, if a woman responds ‘yes, I know’ to a compliment such as ‘you look nice’ it doesn’t go down well and it comes down to the expectation that we should show no self-appreciation. But why? I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
On Easter Day Rev Jeremy Putnam pointed out that the chance of each one of us existing is 1 in 102,685,000. The Buddhist version of ‘this precious incarnation’ is this: imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there was exactly one turtle in all of the oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water right in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.1 No matter how you look at it, the fact that you, yes you, are here on this earth right now is nothing short of a miracle.
The Bible tells us we are not an accident, a random act but something planned out by God the Father, God the Creator. The one who took time to put each star in its place also planned on you being born at the time you were, and for you to be here on this earth. With the current rise in awareness of mental health issues, this is really important to understand. For when we remember that we are not here by random but carefully ‘knit together’ and ‘formed’ by the Creator of the Universe we know we have a purpose. These words come from a Psalm written by King David (Psalm 139). It talks of God knowing us inside and out. Knowing when we sit and when we sleep. Knowing our every thought. This is because he created us. He knows us and wants us to know him.
I don’t think I will ever fully comprehend the magnificence of it, but it is what I turn back to whenever I hit a low. This is why when I state I am fearfully and wonderfully made I’m not throwing my ego around, but reminding myself that I’m not a random act of the world, but planned, loved and wanted by God.
The challenge is to live like it.
As a self-confessed gadget geek who left my software career to spend a couple of years in a monastery, I was once asked to help create a retreat workshop on the benefits of giving up technology. Who are we when we’re disconnected from Google, Twitter and the rest? Leave your smartphones behind and experience life first hand!
Sadly, I knew I was a fraud. During my time as a novice nun, the internet had only reached as far as an antiquated PC in the bursar’s office, and a tentative proposal to permit the sisters to use the internet during a one hour window on a Sunday afternoon was soundly defeated.
But I had come prepared.
Knowing that I was supposed to live in poverty with no access to money, I prepaid for a year’s data on my phone and hid it in my luggage when I came to stay. Since the sisters’ rooms are private and sacrosanct, I could lie in bed checking the news after lights-out with no fear of discovery… that is, until the week the whole community went sick with a vicious stomach bug and the infirmarian came into my room to treat me and discovered the gadget I was too sick to hide.
Once I recovered I was summoned by Mother Abbess who told me with a wry smile that I had “committed a grievous sin, sister”. I dutifully handed over my phone, promising repentance and conversion of heart. Of course, as a true addict I had a backup plan – my old Kindle with the always-free 3G connection and basic internet browser. What aging nun would suspect my innocent book-reader was also a window onto the outside world?
What compelled this need to be connected? I went to the abbey seeking silence in which to pray and learn to be a better person, and I’d really begun to appreciate how mental knots unravel and relax when there’s nothing to be done except the job at hand. When you’re spending the next hour ironing veils in silence, and there’s no benefit at all to getting it done any sooner, your senses open up and simple things like the smooth texture of the fabric and the smell of the steam iron and the light slanting through the laundry window and the clanking of the ancient pipework, all become elements of perfect satisfaction in the moment.
But as soon as you start wanting your task to end so you can do something more entertaining or more important, time gets slower, frustration increases, people seem more irritating, and life is something that gets in the way, rather than a source of joy and wonder.
My own fear was being left behind by the zeitgeist. In the summer of 2012, hidden in the abbey, I completely missed the London Olympics, and I felt like I was losing my identity. Everyone else had this profound shared experience and I stepped out of the room and missed it. I came to understand why the sisters were only allowed to read newspapers a week old: we can really get addicted to being ‘up to date’.
It all comes down to our sense of identity. Where is our treasure? The rich young man couldn’t give up his wealth to follow Jesus, but it’s not just wealth that gets in the way. It’s anything that’s so central to who we are that to let it go would be like tearing off our own limb. Jesus is ruthless. Just cut it off, he says, pluck it out. I’ve seen from the monastery that he’s right. But…
This month's blog was written by Tess Lowe. Tess is training as an Ordinand for ministry in the Church of England.
Les Reed, once manager of Charlton Athletic FC has held an extraordinary record ever since his time in office in 2006. Mr Reed lasted only 7 games in charge, and still to this day holds the shortest reign in Premier League history. I’d like to think this is an exceptional example, but unfortunately there are plenty of managers that over the years have lasted less than ten games. The game of football has often been accused of being very short-sighted. Heroes reduced to zeros in a matter of days, messiahs to mess-ups in a month, kings to criminals in a season.
I can’t help but think that the culture of our time all too often reflects the same short-sighted attitude as that of the premier league. Celebrities come and go, politicians rise and fall, major government policies are often accused of being vote winners instead of really investing in the future of our country. The ‘quick fix’ seems to be a slogan of honour for a new generation of movers and shakers, rather than taking time to consider the future as well as the present.
For those of you who lived in the 1950s, you’ll likely remember how the country felt at the time. Still rebuilding from the devastation of the war, there was a strong sense of unity, both in recovery, as well as hope for the future; and unemployment was low too. The welfare state and the introduction of the NHS meant that people were eating better, working more safely, and living healthier than before. The spirit of Britain at the time was to bless the next generation, and leave their children with a healed and prosperous country. Have we lost this desire to invest in the future? In the midst of a world that is obsessed with instant gratification making the most of life now, have we lost the culture of ‘paying it forward’, of legacy and gift; handing on a better world to our children?
This week the Church marks the beginning of Holy Week with our Palm Sunday celebrations in which we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On that day in Jerusalem palm leaves were waved by the hundreds; praises sung with loud voices rejoicing at the sight of the one who would reclaim Israel, and begin the liberation of God’s people.
Six days later they were calling for him to be crucified.
Hero to zero, messiah to mess-up, king to criminal in a matter of days. How fickle were the crowds? It is easy for us to look back and say they were too impulsive and quick tempered, but are we any different?
Despite the short-sightedness of the world, the Easter story reminds us that God is not. His plan is for eternity. He cares for the here and now, but he also cares just as much for the tomorrow and forever too. Jesus championed a way of life that was exemplified by his cross and passion. His sacrifice and resurrection ensured that we have life; a life for the here and now, but also a life for all eternity. Choose His way and you choose life; for today, for tomorrow and for ever.
May you have a blessed and life filled Easter season. Jeremy
The following article was written by Jennifer Herrera, Executive Director for Acts435. You can read the original article here.
I imagine All Saint's Church, Truro, didn't know what had hit it when their new vicar Jeremy Putnam came into town. He moved with his wife to take up the post, and after a short time his wife Ruth found there was an abundant need in the city. She then found Acts 435, and has effectively catapulted All Saint's into being a huge resource for people in need throughout the county; making a big difference to a region where there is poverty, and little resources to help.
After Ruth did the initial research she pulled in two other amazing ladies to help with the project alongside her. Jean got involved in March, and Avril in August 2016. Since then they have worked together to serve their community through Acts 435, all with different skills and experiences.
Ruth has felt very humbled by seeing needs met through Acts 435. The team of advocates work alongside the foodbank at the church, as well as Inclusion Cornwall, which acts as a point of contact for many agencies all over Cornwall. They also work with the Christians Against Poverty Centre, based in Truro. Ruth has said that "we see people in real need who struggle on in silence and many who I meet will tell me that other people need the help more".
Jean has really enjoyed being involved as an Acts 435 Advocate, especially as she describes the church as a 'poor church', who wouldn't have the resources on hand to help many people in crisis. However, they can now provide a drop-in for people who may need help through the church and Acts 435. She describes it as "pure joy" meeting and helping people, and she feels "so uplifted by their response when we fulfil their requests". Jean goes on to describe that using Acts 435 as a resource is "easy to do and not time consuming", and enables her to effectively help those in need.
One of Jean's favourite stories from partnering with Acts 435 is about a middle-aged man with hearing problems and learning difficulties. He works seasonally at a caravan site, but after a mix up with his benefits he had very little to live on. The Job Centre referred him to All Saints, knowing that they could help. Jean and the team got him referred to the foodbank at their church, and also posted two Acts 435 requests for electricity and rent. Jean said, "he didn't have the words to thank us enough, and his friend told us that he was a changed man with the stress lifted from him. It was very rewarding for the whole team to see."
Avril, who joined Ruth and Jean as an Advocate at All Saints, thought it looked like a "wonderful, straightforward and caring response to help others", and signed up to help straight away! She remarks that not only does having Acts 435 as a church ministry enable them to bless the community, it also blesses the church congregation and enables them to give week by week generously to direct needs in the community.
Avril remembers "an elderly gentleman who had no heating except a small electric fire. His cottage was damp and he was struggling financially, so didn't turn the fire on very often. Through Acts 435 we were able to give him money for his electric key meter, and when I went to see him to give him the donation he was suffering from bronchitis. He was so cold and damp, it had made him ill. He cried with relief and gratitude for the donor and for himself".
All three of these All Saints Advocates would tell anyone thinking about partnering with Acts 435 to just sign up! Avril comments;
"It's such a small thing to do but with a huge impact on those in need. Acts 435 blesses those in need. We ourselves are blessed by seeing God at work through the wonderful generosity of donors, making such an impact on people's lives, giving hope and respect".
If you would like to see the impact Acts 435 could have in your church by partnering as an Advocate, or a team of Advocates like this Cornwall team, have a look at our website to see what's involved: www.acts435.org.uk/join
On 9th January this year the Prime Minister, Theresa May, launched her ambitious plan to create a ‘Shared Society’. She spoke of ‘fairness and solidarity’, ‘overcoming division’ and creating a ‘society that works for everyone.’ This isn’t a new concept however, back in 2010 David Cameron put forward the idea of a ‘Big Society’ and in 1997 Tony Blair spoke of wanting to create a ‘classless society.’ So why are we, seemingly constantly, struggling for a society which works better for the sake of it citizens but failing to bring it to fruition? As Theresa May so pointedly said in her speech on 9th January “There is more to life than individual self-interest.”
We live in a paradoxical time where many want the world to work for them, yet are not seemingly willing to work for the world. Society around us tells us we are worth it, we can have it now, or we can be whoever we want to be, not to mention the rhetoric which says ‘if it feels good do it’. With this being pushed at us every day shared society, a big society, a classless society might all seem to be pie in the sky thinking, but if we look back to how the early Christians came together to live we have an amazing example of how we can live to work for each other.
The book of Acts shows how a ‘shared society’ can work, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common … There was not a needy person among them.” Acts 4:32-34 (look up the All Saints Acts 435 initiative)
This is a bold approach to life, and I am not suggesting such a drastic move in property ownership should be rolled out in 21st century Britain, but we need to switch our thinking from ‘What can I get out of it?’ to ‘What can I put into it?’ When we live in a world of ‘individual self-interest’, asking how society is going to work for us without considering how we are going to work for society, we run the risk of elevating oneself to more important than the next person.
Yet if we are to believe the words of Jesus, he came to save the world. Jesus loves you, whether you realise that yet or not, but he also loves the whole world too. He loves you and wants you to prosper (in the fullness that can be) but he also loves the person down the street, the person in the big house with the ‘important big job’ and the lady on the street asking for food.
As Paul the Apostle wrote “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus came to level the playing field, to create the ‘Shared Society’, ‘Big Society’, ‘Classless Society’ yet 2000 years on we have still not got it right. There is still division, there is still injustice, there are still poor on our streets and people fleeing from war, because still we look at what we can get from life, society, the world rather than what we can give to it.
Adapting the words of 35th President of the United States of America I would encourage you,
“My fellow citizens of this world, ask not what your country/society/world can do for you, but what you can do for your country/society/world.”
Regarding Cornwall’s response to the growing concerns of rough sleepers and the homeless, here are my 10 conclusions.
1. Each person is a person.
Although terms like ‘the homeless’ are ok to use (within reason), it doesn’t mean that homeless people are a group. One encounter with a homeless person or rough sleeper will be very different from another; and for those people who need support, one solution will be appropriate for one and not another. The most compassionate response to any person in any kind of need is to relate to them as an individual, not as a project, group, label, or even, as a community outside of our own.
2. Out of sight, not out of mind.
Just because a rough sleeper is no longer seen under a blanket in front of Natwest Bank doesn’t mean that the problem for them has gone away. We may not see them, but the pain and the discomfort they experience may still be very present.
3. Don’t be motivated to help because you want an ‘in bloom’ award.
Your desire to help a rough sleeper shouldn’t be motivated by wanting to clean up your City’s image. Cleaning up your city or town starts with attitudes, not with more wheelie bins, and road sweepers. Don’t sweep anything under the carpet, you won’t build trust with anyone unless you engage with the cause of the issue.
4. Grace and compassion transforms lives.
Abuse and intimidation, antisocial and violent behaviour are never justified and should always be confronted; however, judgement without grace is useless, and punishment is never enough without compassion. Looking beyond the person’s actions to see what provokes and motivates is the first step of seeing real change – anything else is just a plaster on a wound.
5. Complexity is your friend.
Each case of homelessness is a complex blend of matters, given that each case is indeed a person, and people are… that’s right, complex! But this is a gift, not a hindrance. It means that we don’t make the mistake of thinking one size fits all, and it forces us to put ourselves in the shoes of the victim in any situation.
6. Listen, and then listen some more.
Remember that the map is not the territory. How you see a problem is not actually how it is – we learn what is needed by listening to those that we seek to help. Even if we have the emotional intelligence of Mother Teresa we still need to place ourselves in the shoes of the other, by really listening.
7. What problem?
It may be true that the problem you perceive, is not the problem that needs fixing, in fact it may not even be a problem. The issue with the word homeless is that it presupposes the idea that these people need homes. They do need homes but not in the way some might think.
8. Home is where the heart is.
Home might simply mean somewhere not wet and not cold, or where the people around them talk to them as human beings, instead of looking down on them, or even worse pity them. Home may well be more to do with the faces they see around them rather than the fabric that protects them.
9. The equivalent of a patronising tilt of the head.
Go beyond the frown or side head tilt, and smile. Instead of buying one copy of the Big Issue, buy 10. Instead of giving coins, buy a meal and sit on a park bench and eat together. Be over generous, rather than tokenistic. When you choose to respond, make it a surprise and a symbol of real generosity. Remember generosity is far more likely to change a situation than correcting, reproving or punishing will.
10. Find out for yourself.
Take everything I have said and then forget it. It may not be true – it is only what I think, and I am no expert. Find out for yourself, and listen to others who have opinions too. Especially those who are committed to resolving the issues you care about i.e. Councillors, Mayors, the Police, your MP, THAG, St Petroc’s, your church leader and anyone else who cares for that matter. These people are the best people to talk to because, like you, they do care.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.