The prophetic imagination

A report from our 16 April online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Reflection by Urzula Glienecke

What are the things we can learn from the lockdown situation?

  • We don’t need our church buildings, we can be more creative, meet in different places.
  • Democratised worship, not hierarchical
  • Relational church
  • We are currently dependent on zoom, the church is dislocated from the neighbourhood
  • The violence of capitalism denies what it is to be human – huge divides between rich and poor, white privilege (be cautious about heroic words that come from out privilege)
  • The virus has exposed how bad the situation was before
  • People with disabilities and others were already experiencing social isolation
  • Having to identify people in need of help (not already known/in contact)
  • The presence of the church/delivering food shows presence and love
  • Our economy was not working for all – how can this be addressed post covid?
  • Universal income
  • If we were consultants to the Bishop – what would we be saying?
  • Need a clear strategy, not multiple campaigns, not duplicating work
  • We are currently very reliant on food banks
  • Kairos moment – crisis and opportunity at same time
  • This has forced us to do things differently, we can imagine something different but we have to make it happen
  • Action comes out of prophetic imagination
  • Kindness makes a huge difference
  • Value placed on people’s lives, vulnerable and people with disabilities asked to sign DNRs.
  • We can learn from countries that are doing things well, e.g. New Zealand, Finland
  • Food security is closely tied to legal (and illegal) immigrant workers. We need to value them.

What would be the one thing which you would improve/change in your local community after the lockdown?

  • Work for Universal basic income
  • Work for the church to be more integrated in the community/build relationships
  • Storefront churches turning into missional housing, Christians living intentionally on the block, pushing back against gentrification
  • Challenge institutional church re. finances, where, what, how it spends its money
  • Digital provision and training for people currently excluded
  • Economic activity with ecological focus
  • Inspiration from people involved in prophetic action (Romero, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth)
  • People’s own relationship to (and awareness of) their own power
  • People designing their own communities/structures (eg older people and people in poverty)
  • The churches are ‘closed’, but still ongoing. We are the church.
  • We need to change our attitudes towards immigrants (many of our key workers, nurses, delivery drivers, food harvesters).
  • The church needs to become ‘the voice of the national consciousness’ (reflecting voices of change, equality, fairness).
Research and Information Officer

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Where are the margins?

A report from our 30 April online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Reflection by Stef Benstead

What groups of people are on the margins? [people who lack the resources to change their situation]

  • People with disabilities (currently difficult to access care)
  • Travellers
  • Migrants
  • People suffering domestic abuse
  • Children experiencing abuse
  • People in care centres (cut off from society)
  • People in food poverty
  • LGBT+
  • Homeless (new homeless in London – hospitality workers)
  • Single parents
  • People who are isolated/alone
  • People with no access to technology
  • Trans people
  • People who have had difficult experiences of church
  • People who are ‘othered’ – people who are talked about, not to.
  • Black and minority ethnic people (disproportionately affected by the virus)
  • Women
  • Digital exclusion
  • Addicts
  • Prisoners/ex-offenders
  • Destitute asylum seekers
  • Sex workers (especially in current crisis)
  • Individuals and families on zero-hours contracts, on the breadline

What causes marginalisation?

  • Social and economic systems exclude people, e.g. education. … the structures of our society create margins.
  • We need to aware that people may be labelled as marginalised and don’t want to be labelled as such.
  • The church has gone online but disabled communities have been ‘doing and being’ church online for years, having been excluded from ‘mainstream’ church.
  • How does the church marginalise? Is the church at the centre?
  • We can learn from the methods of the Poverty Truth Commission. Church leaders can learn from a PTC – hear the experiences of people in poverty.
  • Maybe the church needs a (Poverty) Truth Commission – the meeting of leaders and church members to share experiences and talk honestly about church. An opportunity for people to be heard.
  • The church is not marginalised. …. The priest is ‘in charge’.
  • For some the economic gap has drastically narrowed. People have suddenly found themselves in difficult situations.
  • Some people are unwilling to engage with technology and so are cut off from online activity and community.
  • Some people have to comply with systems to get what they need (e.g. PIP), others (richer and powerful) do not have to comply.
  • Jesus crossed borders, challenged what was socially acceptable. 

How could you move to live, work, be alongside people on the margins?

  • ‘We need to go to people on the margins, not wait for them to come to us.’
  • We need to adopt relational approaches, befriend people where they are (not expect them to come to church).
  • Meet in informal settings, e.g. pubs and cafes.
  • Meet online, where many marginalised communities already gather.
  • Listen to people who are angry and hurt.
  • Admitting our mistakes when we get it wrong (as a church).
  • Connecting with LGBT+.
  • Bring people together for a shared meal (e.g. people from low-income and more affluent communities).
  • Some (Anglican) churches are struggling with ‘resources churches’ taking over in their local area, lots of funding allocated to resource churches.
  • Work with local people who have good local knowledge and skills (e.g. Sikh shopkeeper who knows the neighbourhood very well, helping with food provision).
  • Some church leaders/hierarchy are currently advising clergy not to deliver food, etc. other people in the community are just getting on with it.
Research and Information Officer

Staying connected: 3 stories from Sheffield

Gathering on the Margins – 26 May

You Can’t Eat the View

How a few photos from 2008 still undermine attempts to tackle UK poverty

New wine, new wineskins part 3: What needs to change?

Gathering on the Margins, 19 May: Building back better?

New wine, new wineskins part 2: What does our faith tell us?

Reflecting together, 14 May: Power and powerlessness

New wine, new wineskins part 1: Journeying into a new world

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Who is my neighbour?

A report from our 23 April online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Who is my neighbour – a walkable parish
(reflection by Chris Lawrence in New York)

How are people staying connected/helping (low-tech)?              

  • Notes through doors, phone calls, WhatsApp groups where possible.
  • Church leaflets/services/prayers through letterboxes
  • URC church sending out letters (?)
  • Toy, book and food boxes on streets
  • Communities that had existing networks are managing to keep in touch with people, communities/churches that did not have contact details for people are struggling to reach people.
  • Making masks and scrubs
  • Pastoral ministry from home
  • Safe contact, e.g. distanced conversations
  • Shopping for people
  • Street art, banners, chalk on pavements

Isolation – trigger for mental health problems

What will you do differently after this?

  • Street party
  • Affordable rent
  • Eat and pray together (rule of life)
  • Make the church a community hub
  • Do church differently
  • The church building does not matter, we need to be engaged in the community / change how we do church. … Being with people, being present where people are, was how Jesus worked.
  • Responding to priorities will, in turn, re-shape the church.
  • Were our ways of doing church before completely wrong?
  • We need to do church differently, and plan for this now.
  • Economics – the situation is going to be difficult after this.
  • Racial justice – BME more affected by COVID 19
  • Grassmarket church – developing friendship pantry.
  • Would communities notice if the church left? Are churches integrated into communities?
  • Will fractured communities be more whole after this?
Research and Information Officer

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 5 May

This week in our gathering on the margins we were talking about the media, and the issues around reporting people’s stories fairly and accurately.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Matt Sowerby, our poet in digital residence started us off by sharing a poem he had written inspired by a conversation with Penny about life on the Byker estate. Matt observed that often in the media people living in poverty are often either demonised as ‘benefit scroungers’ or made into unrealistically angelic victims with no agency for themselves, and both of these portrayals strip them of their humanity. In his poem he tries to bring a more balanced perspective in what is happening in the Byker community.

After a short ice-breaker session in which we discussed stories we had seen recently in the media that had been uplifting, Gavin, our media coordinator, talked about his role in connecting journalists with people who want to share their stories.

There was then the opportunity for people to share issues they would like to see picked up by the media and talk about experience they have had working with the media themselves, or other issues connected with sharing people’s stories. We had a wide range of stories, but a recurring theme was the issue of not feeding into a narrative that just simplistically portrays people as heroes or victims, and does not explore what Nick Waterfield described the ‘middle stories’, that actually reflect real life.

Another issue people said that they were facing when trying to get people’s stories into the media is people’s reluctance to share these stories, whether because they do not feel their story is worthy or because life gets in the way so they don’t have the opportunity to tell it. Both Tish from ATD and Ben spoke about how it is better if people have ownership of the way their stories are told.

After this we broke off into smaller breakout rooms. For those who had specific stories that they wanted to share with a journalist this was an opportunity to speak directly with Maryam from the Mirror. Everyone else had the opportunity to discuss in more detail in smaller groups experiences we have had working with the media on issues around poverty.

After the breakout session Ben talked about the importance of getting the right balance between telling personal stories and showing the bigger picture. Gavin spoke about the power of cumulative story-telling, having multiple share their individual stories, to build a larger story with greater impact. An example of effective cumulative story-telling is the work that Tia has contributed to with the Food Foundation, which can be found here.

Next week we will be exploring creative responses to Covid-19, and we will be joined by poet Matt Sowerby, blogger and spoken word performer Ellis Howard, filmmaker Broden Salmon, musician Clare Pettinger and others. This one is not to be missed, so do join us on Tuesday at 2 pm.

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Are we all in the same boat? Share your thoughts for our video

We’re making a short film as part of Church Action on Poverty’s Food Power programme’s creative responses to COVID-19. We're asking the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?' and we want your contributions.

You can get involved by:

  • Sending us a short audio clip on your reflections to the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?’
  • Send us five photos or a short video responding to the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?’ Some ideas might be:
    • A meal, something you’ve eaten or haven’t eaten
    • A time you’ve felt connected or resilient
    • A time you’ve felt angry, anxious or sad
    • Something you’ve repeated
    • Something you miss
  • Send an email or call us by phone to share your experience of life during lockdown and/or reflections on ‘Are we all in the same boat?’
Food Power Empowerment Programme Officer

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 28th April

We are more reliant than ever on digital connection during the lockdown, but for many people it is very difficult to get the digital access they need to stay connected. At this week’s Gathering on the Margins we looked at the issue of digital exclusion.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Before we got into the main topic of digital exclusion, Matt Sowerby, our poet in residence, shared a very moving poem he had written in conjunction with Stef Benstead drawing from the conversations we had had in the gathering a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how the crisis is affecting the lives of disabled people.

ATD Fourth World has been working with people who are struggling with digital access. Tish Mason gave us examples of different ways in which people are digitally excluded. In some cases people do not have access to the technology itself – phones, laptops, tablets, etc., that would allow them to be digitally connected. Tish told us about a woman who needed to buy a phone in order to access the internet, but would have had to pay for it online, which she couldn’t do because she didn’t have a phone.

But even if even if you do have the physical bit of technology, there is still the issue of actually being able to access the internet. Some schools are sending tablets to their students to allow them to do school work, but these useless without Wi-Fi. Tish told us that many people are using their neighbours Wi-Fi, but this may leave them with an obligation that perhaps they would prefer not to have.

Some people are able to connect to the internet through mobile data, which is of course expensive and reliant on good signal. Patricia Bailey, who was only able to join us via audio rather than video, told us about the trouble she has had connecting to Zoom calls because the signal where she lives is not strong enough.

People who want to tell their stories and share their experiences of digital exclusion are really struggling because most of the opportunities to do that are now online. Digital exclusion is having a major impact on the lives of people in poverty at the moment, but it is even harder for them to raise their voices about it. Furthermore, the issue seems so insurmountable that some organisations are reluctant to even address it. As Tish points out people who have not had access to the internet before now urgently needs it, it is not a luxury in this situation.

Katy from the APLE Collective gave us more examples of how digital exclusion is affecting people’s lives. Getting support from neighbours, job searches, accessing Universal Credit, receiving important public health messages, and maintaining family connections in difficult circumstances are all so much harder without digital access.

The APLE Collective are sharing people’s experiences of digital exclusion through a series of blogs, which you can read here. If you would like to contribute to this please contact Katy at contact@aplecollective.com  The Collective have also sent a letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and are following this up with a letter to each metro mayor and trying to raise this issue in the media as much as possible.

We were very lucky in this session that we could be joined by Tia, a young person from Lancashire who has been experiencing digital exclusion and has only just got a laptop allowing her to join these calls. She shared how digital exclusion has been affecting the lives of her friends and family. She told us how she needed internet access to receive free school meal vouchers by email, and then a printer to print them off – something she is luckily able to do, but not all of her friends are. Home-schooling without a computer is almost impossible, and Tia told us how her younger sister has not been able to do her schoolwork for nearly a month. Digital exclusion is not a new issue for Tia and her friends. She told us about the difficulties they had completing assignments at home when she was in college, but lockdown has only made the need for digital access more urgent.

Next week (Tuesday 5th May, 2 pm), we will be looking at the media and reporting stories from the margins. We will be joined by a journalist from the Mirror and there will be opportunity to discuss important issues you would like to see reported on more.

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Poet in digital residence

Matt Sowerby is Church Action on Poverty's poet in digital residence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s Matt performing ‘Breadlines’, the poem he wrote for our End Hunger campaign.

Through the pandemic, Matt is helping Church Action on Poverty’s partners and supporters to respond creatively to the impact of the virus and lockdown, with weekly workshops and inspirational online performances.

Workshops happen every Tuesday at 3:30pm.

Join us for a workshop – or just read and watch some of the poetry that’s been produced so far! 

Matt is compiling a book of the poems that have been written by people taking part in the workshops. If you have a poem to share, you can submit it using the link below.

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

virtual creativity

Weekly poetry workshop

virtual creativity

Weekly poetry workshop

Tuesdays, 3:30pm. Click the link to find out more.
Sign up here
creative writing

Read or watch poems

creative writing

Read or watch poems

See poems produced by Matt and others in our workshops.
Read poems
Share your writing

Submit your own poems

share your writing

Submit your own poems

Send your own poems to be published on the website or in a book.
Read poems

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 21 April

Our weekly Zoom call, Gathering on the Margins, this week focussed on how the benefits system is/isn’t working during this crisis.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Penny told us about how the self-employed are the among the hardest hit, especially those who haven’t been self-employed long enough to qualify for financial support. She says that the wait for those now applying for Universal Credit is astronomical, so people who were already on benefits are actually better off than those who previously had reasonable incomes.

Andrew from End Hunger Cornwall gave us an update on the situation in the South West. Cornwall is particularly affected because the local economy usually relies on the boost that is brought by holiday makers in the summer, and a lot of local people work seasonal jobs.

Paul Morrison from the Joint Public Issues Team gave us an insight into how the DWP is adapting to the increasing demand for Universal Credit, reorganising themselves so more people are working on dealing with the applications. However, Paul points out, the real problem is the people who have no recourse to public funds and can’t get support.

The discussion did not just focus on the current system. We also tried to radically reimagine what a welfare system that works for everyone could look like. Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform told us about the work being done around the idea of Universal Basic Income, which would function as an economic floor that supports everyone. The idea of UBI has been around for a while, but the current crisis might give the it some political momentum.

Universal Basic Income would be a long-term solution, but Niall argued that we need a something quick and short-term first to help people get through the immediate crisis. He explained the concept of ‘helicopter money’ which would be a one-time emergency cash payment to every household in the country. It would not be means-tested because that would delay the money reaching those who really need it.

It is great to have these gatherings and brilliant that we are able to stay connected online. However, many people are severely isolated at the moment because they don’t have the necessary technology for staying connected or aren’t able to access to the internet. Fully aware of the irony of doing this on Zoom, next week we will be discussing the issue of Digital Exclusion.

Join us at 2 pm on Tuesday 28 April.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for these gatherings, contact me at felicity@church-poverty.org.uk

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

SPARK newsletter summer 2020 – online edition

Click on the right to download the latest issue of SPARK, our newsletter for supporters of Church Action on Poverty.

We’re very sorry, but for the first time in many years, we aren’t able to send out a printed newsletter. Our printer is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, and our staff and volunteers are unable to manage the mailing.

So please share this digital newsletter as widely as you can in your church, and with friends and family.

The focus of this issue is on the ways we can stay connected despite lockdown and isolation. It’s full of inspiring stories of how communities continue to look after one another. It also has tips and ideas to help you stay well, and to use the time for reading, thinking, prayer and reflection.

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

Reflecting together: Being Church on the Margins in a time of coronavirus

What does it mean to be a Church on the Margins? A monthly space for shared reflection in these challenging times: 2pm on the second Thursday of every month.

These are extraordinary times for all of us, but what does it mean to be a ‘church on the margins’ and to seek to be attentive to and inclusive of those on margins of society in the current context?

We are not offering any answers, but simply a space to reflect together with others on these challenging times, on our own hopes and fears, on the practical and theological issues thrown up by the crisis, and what it means for church, discipleship, ministry and spirituality to be a ‘Church on the Margins’ at this current time.

Each session will start with a short reflection, but mostly be spent in small groups sharing together our own experiences, thoughts and reflections on these questions.

The event will take place via Zoom. You can participate via any internet-enabled device with a microphone (laptop, tablet, phone etc) – or simply over the phone. Once you have signed up via Eventbrite, we will send you a link or a phone number that will allow you to take part.

Sign up for one session, or for the whole series. Dip in and give it a go!

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June