Running a Good Society conversation

Church Action on Poverty supporter Liz Delafield shares how Dialstone Lane Methodist Church in Stockport used our 'Good Society' resources to spark conversations and action for change.

On Saturday we had a meeting with two local MPs, using the computer app, Zoom. It was called ‘A Good Society? Within and After the Covid Crisis’. A collection of people, mainly from our local area, joined us in a question/answer dialogue. It was the latest in a series of events that had been taking place at Dialstone Lane Methodist Church, and our first virtual meet-up. These meetings explore what it means to be a good society. They have included hustings events for local and general elections, an event prior to the referendum and several roundtable discussions.

I would encourage other churches and faith groups to hold a gathering like this. It is a great way to contribute to building and engaging with the community. I do not hold up the way we did things as a model you need to follow. There will be many other equally valid, or better, ways of holding good society gatherings. We made plenty of mistakes along the way. Here are a few ideas that may be of some use:

Getting started

The journey began in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. We met around tables with a good supply of cake and coffee. We used the questions and ideas in the Good Society toolkit. This is still available  although it might be time for an update! This led onto our second event, a more formal hustings.

Communications

We use traditional ways, such as church notices, newsletters and posters, and invited groups that may be interested (church/faith groups, community groups, sixth form colleges). We also made an event on Facebook via our church page, and shared this on local community groups.

Keeping going

Many churches held similar Good Society gatherings but few have kept it going, so why did that happen? Several people who had been to the first two meetings had got a taste for it and were asking, “When’s the next one?” Things just developed from there. We had ups and downs along the way. But building a good society, or what Christians call the Kingdom of God, was never going to be achieved in one election.

Share a vision and keep hold of your ideals

At the majority of our gatherings, we have looked back at the 2020 vision of a good society produced after the initial good society conversations.  We also decided that we wanted to add “A flourishing NHS that meets peoples’ needs.” We ask our contributors to express their ideas about a good society. This gives us a focus.

Keeping control whilst allowing expression

Whenever people with different opinions get together, things can get a bit fraught. We decided early on to establish ground rules. A well planned and chaired meeting helps to set things on the right foot. By and large the political candidates and other invited guests have been well behaved. People often come with lots to say. We try to find ways people can contribute, even if they don’t get to say it in the meeting. Our larger events have a ‘marketplace’ to give out leaflets and hold informal conversations. Sometimes people are invited to share ideas in other ways such as a ‘have your say’ board.

Teamwork

An event like this takes a lot of planning. I have relied a lot on a friend in my church who is an excellent organiser. We are also very lucky to have some members who bake delicious cakes.

Using Zoom

Owing to the restrictions on meeting during the Covid 19 epidemic, our latest meeting was on Zoom. We decided to keep it to one hour, as zooming for longer than this can be difficult. We put people on ‘mute’ on arrival to keep it from being chaotic, and lined up the questions beforehand. It was less fluid than our real-life meetings, but a useful alternative under the circumstances. One advantage is that we don’t have to clear up afterwards!

What next?

We are planning another Zoom meeting, this time with local councillors. Perhaps, as we emerge from this pandemic, this would be a perfect time for all of us to reflect and renew our vision. It’s time to build back better. What is our vision for a good society in 2025?

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Dozens join e-choir for rendition of a Disney classic

New songs for a strange land

Way Maker

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

Viral Song

A hymn by Church Action on Poverty supporter Nick Jowett.

(Tune: ‘To God be the glory’)

Unseen, undetected, a virus invades,
with hideous potential for suffering and pain.
From human to human the pest makes its raids:
will all be infected in Being’s great chain?
Hear our voice! Hear our cry! May the Lord hear our prayer.
Give us hope, steady hope, in the place of despair.
We cry out, O God, in our anguish and stress.
We seek understanding. We need you to bless.

Though many are fearful, yet some do not care:
they want to continue their life as before;
no evil can happen to them, they declare,
asserting their freedom, they’ll flout any law.
Hear our voice! Hear our cry! May the Lord hear our prayer.
Give us hope, steady hope, in the place of despair.
O Father, bring hope for the world in its sin:
may all see the signs of your kingdom begin.

Can this be the truth we’re unwilling to call:
the human, self-centred, refusing to share?
Is that the real virus, in one and in all,
which silently poisons what might have been fair?
Hear our voice! Hear our cry! May the Lord hear our prayer.
Give us hope, steady hope, in the place of despair.

How can we, O God, purge this ill from the earth?
How can we all flourish
without a new birth?
And yet, in a crisis of desperate need,
the summons goes out for each person to hear,
and many respond, help their neighbours with speed,
forgetting themselves, bringing practical cheer.
Hear our voice! Hear our cry! May the Lord hear our prayer.
Give us hope, steady hope, in the place of despair.
By actions of love, whether many or few,
your Spirit, O God, starts what Jesus would do.

In those who are willing to help with a smile,
defeating this sickness with boldness and grace,
and willing to travel an extra long mile,
the virus of evil’s pushed back in its place.
Hear our voice! Hear our cry! May the Lord hear our prayer.
Give us hope, steady hope in the place of despair.
We cried out, O God, in our anguish and stress,
And now you have shown us that you can still bless.

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

You Can’t Eat the View

A report from End Hunger Cornwall

Report from a conference held in October 2019, highlighting the impact of food poverty and food insecurity throughout Cornwall. 

Running a Good Society conversation

Viral Song

You Can’t Eat the View

Church on the Margins: video reflections

These reflections on what it means to be a church on the margins were shared to open our weekly online discussions.

Being a Church on the Margins in a time of Coronavirus (2 April 2020)

Carmel Murphy Elliott, Urban Life, Manchester (with an introduction to the series from Niall Cooper)

Suffering and Solidarity (9 April, Maundy Thursday)

Deirdre Brower Latz, Nazarene Theological College, Manchester

Prophetic Imagination (16 April 2020)

Urzula Glienecke, Greyfriars, Edinburgh

Who is my neighbour? The walkable parish (23 April 2020)

Chris Lawrence, InnerCHANGE, East Harlem, New York City

Where are the margins? (30 April 2020)

Stef Benstead, Manchester

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Dozens join e-choir for rendition of a Disney classic

New songs for a strange land

Way Maker

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

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.

Running a Good Society conversation

Viral Song

You Can’t Eat the View

Food Power Toolkit

'Telling Stories and Shaping Solutions' is a toolkit for empowering people who have lived experience of food poverty, developed by our Food Power programme.

“I got involved because I’ve lived it and I wanted to speak out for those who can’t. The toolkit is there to make sure those working with people who might be
experiencing poverty have the right support in place, things that organisations might not necessarily think about.

“We’ve done the pitfalls and know what works and doesn’t work, with the toolkit we can share this learning. I hope it achieves more clarity and makes organisations think before they start working with people at the grassroots.

“For me I’d never done anything like this before, I’ve now something I’ve co-produced that has my name in it, it’s a massive boost. It’s made me think I can do more stuff that I never thought I could do, it’s helped me build a large network of friends and support in the process.”

Penny Walters, Food Nation

Running a Good Society conversation

Viral Song

You Can’t Eat the View

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

When you read your Bible, use the questions on this bookmark to help you reflect on what you read.

You may find that the scriptures surprise you, overturn your assumptions – and challenge you to take action to tackle poverty and injustice in the world today.

If you would like us to send you a printed bookmark, please email us.

Running a Good Society conversation

Viral Song

You Can’t Eat the View

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

The Bible shows us again and again that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins.

In a thread that runs through all of scripture, God is concerned first and foremost with people who have been excluded from society by poverty, oppression and injustice. Laws like Jubilee in the Old Testament are designed to ensure that no one is left behind and exploited… The prophets stand up constantly against the rich and powerful who would oppress people in poverty… Mary sings of a God who has “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly”… Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor … But woe to you who are rich.”

But too often, when we read scripture in our churches, we forget that perspective. We focus on other aspects of the story, or we become so familiar with the text that we don’t notice the challenging things it has to say to us.

The five Bible studies in Untold Stories focus on the Gospel of Matthew, and highlight different perspectives. We look at Jesus’ teachings and miracles through the eyes of minor characters in the margins of the story. We remind ourselves that the original audiences for Jesus’ teaching, and for the Gospels, were primarily people who were themselves marginalised by poverty, living under military occupation.

The five studies in this resource look at different passages. Most of them also include an ‘unheard voice’ – a piece of creative writing, imagining the perspective of a minor or marginalised character in the story.

We hope that these Bible studies will help you find fresh perspectives on scripture, and challenge you to put your faith into action in the world today.

 

 

Running a Good Society conversation

Viral Song

You Can’t Eat the View