There is no doubt that our lives have been dominated by Covid-19 over the past couple of years. Personally, I have experienced dramatic changes in all aspects of life including work, church, and family.
There was a lot of talk about Covid-19 being a great leveller. Indeed, it impacted us all and could strike anyone at any given time. But while the disease itself could be caught by anyone, it was poorer communities who felt the impact more acutely.
People were often expected to carry on working in places such as supermarkets, care homes, hospitals, and on public transport. In the early days of the pandemic, PPE was simply not available for those working in more challenging conditions.
The headlines are now dominated by a different crisis: namely the cost-of-living crisis. Yet again, we’re all experiencing rising food and fuel costs. We are all having to make choices whether it’s using less fuel, shopping around for cheaper groceries, or turning the thermostat down.
The choices are hard, but a recent report from Trussell Trust (The True Cost of Living – March 2022) highlights that for some, those choices are impossible. No one wants to choose debt or destitution, but this has become a reality for a growing number.
It is also clear that this crisis is not going to be fixed by a vaccine. This longer-term complex issue required substantial systemic changes around economic systems, wealth distribution and welfare reform.
Stick Around and Show Up
As a church leader, when Covid struck my thoughts were mainly about how I could respond to the immediate need. When lockdowns started, I remember staying up half the night to sort out how people would access emergency food parcels or record content for online services.
The cost-of-living crisis will undoubtedly not be just about an immediate response for this winter but sadly also for many winters to come. There is a need to ensure that we maintain a stable local church presence in our communities.
As someone passionate about mission, I find it hard to say the word “maintenance.” However, perhaps we need to put more effort into ensuring that we stick around to show our support to communities for the long haul.
Loyal to Our Communities
When it comes to choosing a bank, I have absolutely no sense of loyalty. I do, however, try to also look for a bank that has remained loyal to my community.
My Father-in-law recently preached at a local church and during the meeting someone snatched the purse of an elderly lady in the congregation.
The thief tried to use the cards to withdraw money from the local branch. When the staff recognised the person withdrawing the money was not the person whose name was on the card – they raised the alarm. This was only possible because the staff knew their local regular customers.
It is clear the banking industry is abandoning local high streets and moving online. It is my prayer and hope that the local church doesn’t follow suit and abandon local communities in preference for going completely online.
In my locality, many churches are closing or merging and many estates don’t have a faithful presence from the local church. Being able to remain and stay faithful is a priority when responding to any crisis – whether it lasts a few years, or as with the cost-of-living crisis, decades.
As well as being present in our communities we also need to stay watchful.
When my first child started primary school back in 2003, our most local school was bottom of the league table for our borough, which, in turn, was the worst performing borough in England.
When visiting the school, we found committed staff, a family atmosphere, and values centred on the local community. The statistics didn’t tell the whole story.
My children have all benefitted from a great foundation of learning but also from being part of a loving and caring community school.
The local statistics for your area that will soon be released following last year’s census. They will give a helpful overview, but they will tell only a very small part of the story.
We need to be watchful to use our eyes and ears and engage in conversations with those experiencing a lack of choice in this crisis. Those with lived experience need to be listened to and will often end up being the best advocates for your responses to the crisis.
How many times have you heard that the best volunteers in a food bank are those who have experienced the challenges themselves?
Our response to this crisis is not just about trying to find solutions. It’s also important that pause, listen, and are simply human.
We know that when Jesus SAW the crowds (when he watched and observed) he had compassion for them. Take time to be watchful as you seek to be a faithful presence in your community. Take time and seek the compassionate heart of Jesus for those around you.
As you pray, why not use our new tool available for PLUS members of Cinnamon Connect where you can plot on a map the observations, ideas, opportunities, potential partners and prayer points.
It will be helpful as you seek to be watchful in the community where you have been faithful.
In the next part, I want to look at how the local church can gather the skills to respond and its need to be experimental.