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

This is the third and final part in a series of blogs about building a positive social vision for our life together after the pandemic.

“A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching”
(William Beveridge) 

We don’t want to propose specific policies here. Rather, we are looking for the vision and values that will guide us as we journey out of the pandemic and into a new world.  What would it mean if we sought to:

  • Build stronger communities based on shared values of compassion and solidarity, and stronger relationships with our neighbours – including people who have been marginalised, ignored and mistrusted in the past.
  • Ensure that everyone has a voice in decisions about how we build back better – most especially people who have been marginalised and excluded 
  • Build systems and policies that are rooted in community, security, solidarity, sharing and mutual aid, rather than competition and profit. 
  • Invest properly in the public services that express our interdependence and connection to one another, including the benefits system.

“The pain and cost of rebuilding must be borne by those with the broadest shoulders, not with another 10 years of austerity,”
(
Justin Welby)

Are we prepared to speak out boldly and prophetically, with a more positive vision of the future, while people still remember the deep values of community and solidarity that are sustaining us all during the pandemic?

Questions

  • How can the voices of those who are usually marginalised be brought to the centre of public debates as to how we build a better society?
  • What are the ways in which communities and society have responded to the pandemic that we would want to build on in future?
  • What kind of ‘revolutionary ideas’ might now be more feasible and help create a fairer society which enables us all to be more secure and more resilient in future? What would we need to do to bring them about?
Communications and Supporter Relations Manager

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

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

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

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

This is the second in a series of blogs about building a positive social vision for our life together after the pandemic.

Modified version of a cartoon by Chris Riddell (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-everything-must-change-cartoon)

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins.”
(Mark 2:21–22)

The churches have a distinctive contribution to make on this journey. Christians are people of hope. What can Christian faith contribute towards a shared vision of a better world that we might be able to help build together?

Scripture tells us we need to read “the signs of the times” and recognise a kairos moment – those crucial times that demand action, conversion and transformation. Scripture also tells us that we mustn’t be daunted by the kairos moment – it is an opportunity and a moment of grace. The way communities have responded to the pandemic has itself shown us the way forward.

“We [must] not settle for business as usual but seize the moment of change to make the world a bit more as it should be, a bit more real.”
(The Centre for Theology and Community)

The Gospels contain many stories of healing. Often, the people Jesus heals have been isolated and marginalised – and their healing restores them to relationship and community. Those stories can remind us that recovering from the coronavirus outbreak means strengthening our communities as well as healing from illness.

We could make this a jubilee – a time when injustices are redressed, debts are forgiven, relationships are started anew, and society is reborn. 

At the same time, the way that lockdown has allowed nature to re-emerge and flourish reminds us of the concept of Sabbath. Theologian Greg Smith has said: “The account of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians concludes ‘The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the 70 years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.’ Could perhaps this pandemic period lead to a similar Sabbath effect through which a greater human flourishing, and a respite from the desolation of God’s good earth eventually emerge?”

Questions

  • Which Christian themes, values, ideas or stories from the Bible or elsewhere – e.g. Jubilee, wilderness, healing, Sabbath – resonate and could be most valuable to us now?

  • Could we envision a society and economy in which human dignity and flourishing (wellbeing) was valued more highly than wealth or economic growth as an end in itself? What would be needed to make this a reality?

Communications and Supporter Relations Manager

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

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

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

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

This is the first in a series of blogs about building a positive social vision for our life together after the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
(Arundhati Roy)

The pandemic has caused bigger changes to our lives, systems and economies than anything in living memory. It has removed old certainties – most obviously in the way that a right-wing UK government has launched a radical programme to protect jobs and lives, based on collective action in service of the common good.  

“I’m very confident we’ll get this thing done and beat coronavirus but it depends on collective, resolute action.”
(
Boris Johnson)

It has reminded us all of what matters most. Community responses, mutual aid networks, raising funds and applauding the NHS express the values we all share: community, compassion, supporting one another.  Similarly, many of the values placed on people and their roles have been turned upside-down: Key workers we now applaud were written off as ‘unskilled’ just a couple of months ago. 

At the same time, the pandemic has exposed the injustices and inequalities in our society. People who were already vulnerable or in poverty have been hardest hit both by the pandemic itself, and by the economic shutdown, as they have lost jobs, income and been forced to turn to food banks in record numbers. Millions have discovered for the first time that our benefits system is not well designed to keep people afloat in crisis. The longer-term economic cost is also likely to be enormous, with the prospect of a return to mass unemployment, increased economic insecurity, and large numbers being swept deeper into poverty.

Yet as we start to contemplate moving out of lockdown, we don’t have to go back to the way things were. There is hope, because even in the midst of the pandemic we have been reminded of the values that could enable us to build a better world. 

And when we emerge once again,
Instead of going back to normal,
May we go ahead, remembering
what we missed, and what we didn’t.
(Liz Delafield)

Questions

  • What are the shared values that have come to the fore in our communities that we would like to hold onto after the pandemic?
  • What do we think are the signs that this is a moment for social change and transformation (what Christians might describe as a ‘kairos’ moment)?
Communications and Supporter Relations Manager

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

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

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

New wine, new wineskins: introduction

As we live through the pandemic and lockdown, we are on a journey together. Church Action on Poverty invites you to share your thoughts on how we can 'build back better' after the pandemic.

Modified version of a cartoon by Chris Riddell (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-everything-must-change-cartoon)

This is a crucial moment in our nation’s life. Some talk of the importance of ‘building back better’.  Others, inspired by Christian tradition, might describe this as a ‘kairos’ moment.

The pandemic has cast a light on the injustices and inequalities in our society.  At the same time, the responses we’ve seen in our communities have reminded us of the values that we all share, and which should guide us on this journey.

Surveys reveal a huge desire in the population at large for permanent changes in society, with only 9% of Britons wanting life to return to ‘normal’ after the coronavirus outbreak is over.  While not wanting to diminish the pain, suffering and terrible cost of the current crisis in lives and livelihoods, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

We know now, more than ever, that poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of dignity, freedom and hope, of power over their own lives. We continue to believe that our vision – an end to poverty in the UK – can become a reality.

As we start to think about the future, what kind of compelling shared vision might inspire a wider movement for social transformation in our communities, and wider society?

Are there new ways we can speak and act together to realise a vision of the UK transformed into a country where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty?

Over the next week, we’ll share a series of blogs exploring different aspects of this question. Please watch this space, and share your thoughts and ideas by commenting!

On 19 May, our Gathering on the Margins explored the question too. 

Communications and Supporter Relations Manager

Gathering on the Margins – 23 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 – 9 June

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Are we in the same boat? Some creative responses

Last week we called for creative responses to the question 'Are we all in the same boat?' Here are two of the responses.

Our Programme Manager Kathryn drew this cartoon. And Church Action on Poverty supporter Revd Jo Drew wrote this poem:

Are we all in the same boat?

Are we all in the same boat?
Isolated?
Marginalised?
Cut adrift?
Rudderless?
Anchorless?
Directionless?
Inner compass whirling
As the boat spins
Whirlpool whipped.
Whilst hands seek desperately to cling
To the wood that holds all together.
To the crossbar that keeps the boat afloat.
Jesus slept
When roaring waves reigned.
There is calm in the chaos
It’s edgy but it’s there.
We need to imitate the helmsman on the wood.
Who sees and reaches out to save.
We are all in the same boat.
But some are thrown in at the deep end…

Jo Drew, 11 May 2020 – a reflection during lockdown

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Yellow sticker – a poem

Our Empowerment Programme Officer Ben Pearson wrote this poem as part of one of our weekly creative workshops.

Yellow sticker you label me,
Poor.
Late night,
Hungry.
I search aisles,
For the battered, bruised, left behind.
Trolleys overflowing,
They look at me.
Battered, bruised, left behind,
They label me.


During the pandemic, Matt Sowerby is Church Action on Poverty’s poet in digital residence. He is running weekly online workshops to help our partners and supporters respond creatively to the virus and lockdown.

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

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Kindness, community and rhubarb: my memories of tough times 80 years apart

Sheena is involved with one of our SRG projects in Manchester. She's 96, and her views on the current tough times, and those that have gone before, give us some useful reminders.

In difficult times, it can be reassuring to recall the steadfast values that have served us well before.

Our staff team here at Church Action on Poverty and our partners have been busy in the past few weeks talking to the people we work with, finding out how they are getting on, trying to be community ourselves, and also seeing where systems could yet be improved, to ensure nobody is left adrift.

A recent chat with Sheena, through one of our Self-Reliant Groups, heartened us greatly and reminded us that no matter how confusing and difficult the current journey may be, kindness, community and communication can help us all. Sheena is 96, so can remember more than most, and we thought we’d share some of her thoughts on the current situation, and also her memories of the late 1930s and early 1940s, when the Second World War broke out.

“Something I always remember from the war is that people shared. I had a lot of rhubarb in my garden and I would always go with bundles to the neighbours, and we had a holly tree too, so at Christmas I would go round with holly, because we all shared what we had. Lots of people where we lived had a share in an allotment if they didn’t have a garden, and everyone grew vegetables and looked to share things. Rationing was very tight, and we shared. I think that time is comparable to this time, although at least then you knew what you were fighting. This is more an unknown quantity.”

Sheena was at school in Alloa near Stirling when the war started, but soon went to work in a bank after the male staff were called up. She later worked in a solicitor’s office and then the Post Office.

“The mail always had to get through, war or no war. It was very important. Letters were very important for people, whether you were in the war or not.”

Sheena married after the war and she and her husband, who had been in the Russian convoys, moved to Birmingham. Her husband went to work at the GEC, and Sheena worked as a hospital receptionist.

I loved working in the hospital and being able to help people, I remember I always said I would treat people exactly the way I would like to be treated.

I think that’s still true – sometimes people might just need a cup of tea or a phone call.

“I live at Limelight in Manchester now and am having to stay in my flat. My son lives not too far away and he does my shopping, and he has grandchildren as well, but it’s hard to get across to the children what’s happening. My great-grandchildren are two and four and it’s very difficult to tell children they cannot see people.

“I am glad to have lived this long and I am old now, but I would still like to survive and community is important. The telephone is so important for me. I did use a computer when I worked as a hospital receptionist but I didn’t carry it on and I couldn’t do it now. But good communication and kindness are important. Laura from the SRG is lovely to us. We’re in a good position here. People survive with support from one another, there’s no doubt about that. I think in a crisis, the best comes out in people. Just look how much money that man [Captain Tom Moore] raised in his garden – it brings out the best in people and we can pull together.”

Over the past month, we’ve seen a lot of pulling together. We know times are very strange and perhaps disconcerting at the moment, but if we pull together like we have done in the past, then we can pull through together.

Sheena’s memories of sharing surpluses, keeping open the vital lines of communication and treating others as we’d like to be treated are timeless, loving values. They’ve never been lost, but we see them very clearly now in the mutual aid and neighbourhood support groups that have sprung up all around us.

Our work at Church Action on Poverty is always centred around compassionate community, and communal campaigns. None of us should be left adrift. We all need one another, and we can all support one another. If we can do that now, and once this is all over, we’ll create lasting change.

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Universal Credit – a poem

Our Empowerment Programme Officer Ben Pearson wrote this poem as part of a workshop run by Church Action on Poverty's poet in digital residence Matt Sowerby.

Universal credit,
You prepare me for work.
You motivate me,
Mend me.
You are,
Not a joke.

Universal credit,
You joke with me.
You mock me,
Break me.
You are,
Laughing at me.


During the pandemic, Matt Sowerby is Church Action on Poverty’s poet in digital residence. He is helping our partners and supporters to respond creatively to the virus and lockdown, with weekly online workshops.

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

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Nobody saw it coming – a poem

Church Action on Poverty supporter Liz Delafield wrote this poem as part of one of our weekly poetry workshops.

Nobody saw it coming
It changed everything.
All those things that seemed important yesterday,
Ofsted, SATs, spreadsheets of
data, observations,
suddenly wasn’t.
We began to realise what was.
People,
keeping safe,
being happy,
little things like soap.

May we always remember
how it felt,
when the unimportant
important things came
crashing down.
Yet with them important
important things.

Like…
A child’s hand held in safety,
Laughter of a game played
together with friends.
A trip to the zoo,
Lining up for school dinners,
Story time and reading books (in
real life, not online),
Walking with you and helping
you grow,
Saying goodbye with hugs and
handshakes.

And when we emerge once
again,
Instead of going back to normal,
May we go ahead, remembering
what we missed, and what we
didn’t.

During the coronavirus pandemic, our poet in digital residence Matt Sowerby is running weekly online workshops to help our partners and supporters respond creatively to the impact of the virus and lockdown.

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Signs – a poem

Matt Sowerby shared this poem in one of his workshops as Church Action on Poverty's poet in digital residence.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Matt is running weekly online workshops to help our partners and supporters respond creatively to the impact of the virus and lockdown.

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June