Baking, walking, listening, giving – how you’re all marking our 40th

Hundreds of people have been getting involved to mark Church Action on Poverty’s 40th anniversary this year.

Many of you have donated to our appeal to support our community partners, have taken part in online events such as our quiz night earlier in the year, or have ordered copies of the new Dignity, Agency, Power anthology. Many of you have responded to our anniversary fundraising appeal. And on Wednesday, supporters in Birmingham baked this spectacular birthday cake, using ingredients available from a Your Local Pantry.

To everyone who has got involved: thank you!

A large rectangular cake, with "40 years of Church Action on Poverty" on the top.
“There are big powers, big ideas and big things to resist, but the ways to act on hope are local.”
Revd Kate Gray

Listening, reflecting and sharing

At the same time, many people have been taking part in events in local communities around the country, as part of our Pilgrimage On The Margins.

We all benefit when we take the time to slow down and truly listen to one another. Hearing fresh perspectives, particularly from people who have often been ignored, is vital.

That’s why this year, in ten places around the UK, people are journeying with marginalised people and communities, listening, reflecting and sharing dreams of change and transformation.

We are now nearing the half-way point. We have been to:

  • The Dandelion Community in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester
  • Peckham Pantry and the Pecan charity in London
  • Lewes in East Sussex
  • Newquay Community Orchard in Cornwall

What can we do together to build a better future?

Along the way, we have had some wonderful moments and conversations, as people have listened to and amplified the truths revealed by people and communities on the margins of British society.

People have been sharing their visions of the kind of future they want for themselves and their neighbourhoods, and describing the changes needed to help bring this about. Together, we have been exploring the question: “What can we do together to help bring these dreams into reality?”

Keeping hope local

At all the locations, people have written their hopes on paper leaves and hung them on trees, and laid down stones representing burdens. 

Below is  a short flavour of how it went at Wythenshawe. There, Revd Kate Gray, from the Dandelion Community, said: “There are big powers, big ideas and big things to resist, but the ways to act on hope are local.”

Bringing hope back into the food system

In Peckham and in Lewes, we went on Pilgrimage walks, exploring the local area and talking on the way. In Peckham, we visited three different churches in the community, meeting different people and reflecting on the stations of the cross, and also visited the Pantry, to learn how its members are strengthening community and bringing dignity and hope back into the food system.

In Lewes, we joined a meeting of the Emergency Food Network discussing many of the challenges food banks are facing, but also the enthusiasm the local community has to get involved. Here’s a quick video summary:

And in Cornwall, featured in this video below, people visited Newquay Community Orchard, which brings people together and is a hub for community, friendship, opportunities and access to good food.

The pilgrimage has rekindled memories of one of Church Action on Poverty’s biggest events, the 1999 Pilgrimage Against Poverty, which began on Iona. Over nine weeks, a group of six hardy Pilgrims walked 670 miles all the way to Westminster, sleeping on church hall floors and in people’s homes.  They were joined along the way by literally thousands of other pilgrims, walking anything from a mile to a week. This week, as you read this, we are back on Iona for the fifth leg of our 2022 Pilgrimage on the Margins events.

In the new Dignity, Agency, Power anthology, Val Simcock and Pat Devlin share their memories of the 1999 event. Val says: “I had no experience of anything like that before, and it was a magical time. We became a close-knit group, and I recall we always seemed to be walking in sunshine. It was a time of prayer and penance as well as pilgrimage. We started every day with prayer and ended every day with a time of reflection.”

A group of walkers depart from Iona Abbey on the 1999 Pilgrimage Against Poverty.
The beginning of the Pilgrimage Against Poverty in 1999. Pilgrims leave Iona Abbey, heading to Westminster. Photo by Brian Fair.

Pat also travelled several sections of the route, and at the end was part of the delegation that met with the then Chancellor the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, alongside people with personal experience of poverty.

She recalls: “It was the strongest experience of church I have ever had and I do not think I was alone in that. There was a real strong solidarity and camaraderie. It made me realise what it is to be part of the body of Christ – if one suffers, we all suffer.”

You can find out more about the Pilgrimage On The Margins series here.

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