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.”
One day a wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country so that the son could see how the poor lived. They spent a day and a night at the farm of a very poor family. When they got back from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "Very good, Dad!" "Did you see how poor people can be?" "Yeah!" "And what did you learn?" The son answered, "I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden; they have a river that has no end. We have imported lamps in the house; they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front drive; they have the whole horizon." When the little boy was finished, the father was speechless. His son then added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are!"
Any conversation about poverty inevitably leads us to talk about wealth too. And both can make us feel deeply uncomfortable as we reflect on our own place. But it's not all about material things. Jesus’ words ‘blessed are the meek… the poor… and the broken-hearted’ were said for a very good reason, since humanity has always been very good at trying to fix the problems in the lives of others, whilst forgetting that all are in need of the riches of Christ’s kingdom. Maybe we should learn to see those in need through the lens of Christ’s own poverty, then we might finally see all people as brothers and sisters in God, instead of treating others as simply needing our generosity.
Realigning our own sense of perspective and seeing poverty as a spiritual issue is one thing, dealing with material poverty and the social injustices of our world is another. At All Saints we try our best to support organisations that directly tackle frontline issues of poverty such as the Cornwall Childrens Clothes Bank founded by Candy Coates; or the Truro Foodbank; Acts 435; or the Kernow Credit Union. Around this time of year we often think about Harvest and what we might offer in the way of gifts to those in need. As with previous years any food donations at our Harvest festival will go to the Foodbank; but maybe this year there is an opportunity to think about one of the other organisations running at the church too.
The Kernow Credit Union is set up primarily to help people avoid the growing number of short-term high interest money lenders, that cause people to end up in a crippling spiral of debt. A credit union is similar to a bank, but unlike a high street bank or payday lender it is run and owned by its members and serves the community rather than working purely for profit. Archbishop Justin Welby says “Our faith in Christ calls us to love the poor and vulnerable with our actions… We must help credit unions to become bigger, better known and easier to access if we want them to compete effectively with high interest lenders.”
Why not open a Credit Union account this Harvest? You can find out more information on their website www.kernowcreditunion.co.uk or come along to the access point at All Saints Church on Tuesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm.
Blessings and peace to you all.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.