Bishop of Hull Alison White writes:
God sometimes opens doors for us and invites us in towards the heart of the Gospel and there the Scriptures show us Jesus, at home with people in poverty.
The church is already present and engaged but we are being given an opportunity to work on reaching more people and helping them grow as disciples.
Did you know that one in three people in our Diocese live in poverty? 90 of our parishes are classified as being in the top 20% of those places in England with multiple deprivation to contend with. They are urban and coastal places as well as all the hidden poverty in rural areas.
There is a ‘web of poverty’ trapping people in a poverty of resources, relationships or identity. We believe that there is also a network of grace and the hope of transformation and we want to grow that!
The group working on this part of the ‘Reach’ dimension of the Diocesan strategy spent time listening to people who live and minister in areas of deprivation to discover what they long for. How can we translate this into actions that will allow all God’s people to benefit from the insights and experience of those of us living in poverty and sharing the love of God so that more people can become disciples?
Three interlinked proposals have emerged that could help make a difference:
- Churches as community hubs. This already happens here and there, offering safe places of hospitality and welcome, working in partnership with supporting charities or agencies. We need to be present and accessible.
- Community ‘chaplains’, lay, local, community leaders, given confidence to be out there where people spend their time, commissioned and paid for the time they give.
- Community leaders. People experiencing poverty to be leaders in their own communities. This would lead to re-imagining the shape of ministry in deprived communities and the way the learning might be offered and shared.
There is lots of detail behind all this and lots of work ahead!
We want to be part of what God is doing. Jesus says ‘Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God’ (Lk 6:20)