This post was originally a guest post on the JPIT blog by Naomi. The original can be found here.
Bell Road Methodist Church in Hounslow has a long history of social action; each year, members stuff envelopes for a local homelessness charity and join with other churches in the area to help run a homeless shelter during the winter months. But just over a year ago, the church family decided that it wasn’t enough simply to provide food and shelter for the cold and hungry – we wanted to do something towards changing the structures that caused such poverty and inequality in the first place. Bell Road decided, in addition to its existing social action work, to launch a ‘year of campaigning’.
During 2013/14, the church campaigned for better pay and working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy; stepped up our use and knowledge of Fairtrade goodies and challenged one another to think of blood and organ donation as part of our Christian giving. As well as letter-writing, we had a sticker board at church for those who had signed up to be blood or organ donors – and we had an excellent response
when we decorated (fairly-traded!) t shirts with messages in support of Bangladeshi garment workers and sent them to our local MP.
After all that, Bell Road decided that just one year of campaigning simply wasn’t enough. The question was – where next to direct our energy and voices? Paul Morrison from JPIT kindly came to speak to the campaign group, highlighting issues on JPIT’s radar, from child poverty to the housing crisis.
In a special campaigning service in September, Bell Road thought about foodbanks; truths and lies told about poverty; and homelessness, considering our call to love not in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). Many people were shocked to learn that 913,138 people in the UK received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013/14 compared to 346,992 in 2012/131, and that the bank bailout required after the financial crisis in 2007 could have paid the cost of benefit fraud for a millennium2. Members of the church family contributed to a ‘graffiti wall’ at the end of the service to tell us what issues made them feel passionate. We were so grateful to be able to make use of some of JPIT’s excellent resources – particularly ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty‘ and ‘Faith in Foodbanks?’ A basic outline of the service can be downloaded here
On Friday 5 December, representatives from the three most popular political parties in Hounslow (including our current MP) will be joining us for an evening entitled Faith in Politics? – an opportunity for people of all faiths and none to share a meal together, and then to discuss with the panel the issues that are close to our hearts. Find out more about this event here.
Plans are also in the early stages to organise a series of supper evenings where invited guests will be able to share their expertise (again, over a tasty supper!) on a variety of current social and political issues.
In my classroom at school, there was a poster of a dog managing to balance an apple on its nose. The poster read ‘No-one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’ Sometimes, it can seem that there are so many issues worthy of our attention that we cannot possibly hope to make a difference. But by learning, praying and campaigning, we at Bell Road hope to do all that we can to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.