Reflecting together, 14 May: Power and powerlessness

A report from our 14 May online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

(Video reflection by Alison Webster, Diocese of Oxford)

What can we learn from faith communities in terms of how they have fared in the current context?

  • Examples of churches in Edinburgh and Birmingham – people have been looking after each other, checking in and delivering food.
  • Churches should offer specific help, people feel awkward asking for help.
  • Church of England issued guidance about not going out/ not delivering food/distributing leaflets, etc. … Is the church insular in this situation?
  • Some older people wanted to go out and ignore the message to stay at home, but when they realised that it was to protect the NHS as well as themselves they were happier to comply.
  • Being embedded in the community (pre-crisis) makes it easier to connect/ reach out to people in need.
  • Influence can be more important than power.
  • Can the older and younger generations learn from each other? (e.g. technology skills, insight, etc. )
  • What does ‘service’ look like? Who are you serving with online or offline church?
  • Connections between people are more important than the number of people attending church.

What have we as individuals learned from the power we have/lack?

  • We should turn the Thursday clap into ‘power’ to campaign for a Living Wage for NHS/care workers/key workers.
  • How you use your power is important.
  • Clergy/ministers who hold food bank vouchers have power over people’s fortunes.
  • People with disabilities have been doing church online for years because mainstream church was not accessible/welcoming. The message that online is less / ‘will do for now’ is hurtful to people who have done church this way for years.
  • Now we don’t all have the power to fix things due to social isolation.
  • There is a divide between people who want to get back to the church building as soon as possible and those who don’t.
  • Some people have to go back to work due to their financial situation – powerlessness in this context. It’s a privilege to have the choice to stay at home.
  • We do have power that we may not recognise (as a Christian community). By working together we can be powerful.
  • Whose voices do we listen to? We need to listen to the ‘powerless’.
  • ‘People are hungry and we are talking about bricks [buildings].’

A poem by Ruth Wells

God snuck home.
No longer bound by the
expectations of a ‘consecrated’ building
She’s concentrated her efforts on breaking out.
Now in the comfort of a well worn dining table
she shares some bread,
with some friends.
And she laughs.
And she weeps.
In the sacred space of home.

Research and Information Officer

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Gathering on the Margins – 12 May

This week in Gathering on the Margins, we heard from a number of creative people who told us about how they are using art and creativity to respond to COVID-19.

We have 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.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

Digital Poet in Residence, Matt Sowerby, spoke about the importance of creativity at this time and how, despite the cancellation of all festivals and gigs, there is actually a renaissance of creativity happening at the moment as people respond to the crisis in different ways. However, he also talked about the importance of not putting pressure on yourself to be productive in difficult circumstances.

Matt’s special interest is in art as a way of making change, and says that is through creativity that when we come out of this pandemic we will stop things just going back to the way they were before. You can find some of Matt’s creative responses to the pandemic here.

Broden is a filmmaker based in Clitheroe who has worked with Church Action on Poverty on a couple of projects, including creating the film Edgelands, based upon the stories of a group of young people growing up in poverty in Lancashire. If you haven’t seen this film it is well worth a watch, you can find it here.

Broden told us about his creative process. His work mainly centres around the stories of working-class youth, and he creates really authentic pieces by using street-cast actors and incorporating real people’s stories into his work. Broden also reflected on our need for art at this time as a source of comfort. Broden seeks to use film at time like this when so many people to capture the smaller stories and highlight the ‘underworlds that are much closer to home than people would like to think’.

Next we heard from Lisa, who works with Food Power in Plymouth and uses creative methods to help people share their stories. Lisa has a background in visual art and art history and is interested in who gets to be the artist, how the art is shared, how that’s understood and art as a collective process.

As part of her work with Food Power in Plymouth she has been part of creative workshops, from which a collection of audio and visual material has been put together, and she shared with us a couple of images from this. Lisa explains how art can help people express issues that are both personal and relevant to a larger issue. To adapt to the current situation Lisa is working with a small team in Plymouth on a creative methods toolkit that can be shared online.

Ellis, an actor/write from Liverpool, told us about various aspects of his work, which includes, writing, performing, blogging, directing, contemporary dance and spoken word. Ellis’ work explores the relationship between politics and art. He told us how he began creating work around the issue of child poverty when his school was badly affected by cuts and he wanted to speak out about this. Ellis is also a blogger; you can read his blog, Skinny, Shattered, Skint  here. Ellis and others will also be leading  online workshops about creativity in the coming weeks, you can find out more here.

Jayne spoke about the restorative power of creativity and how it helped her through addiction recovery. Now she is helping to keep people afloat by keeping them connected during isolation. She has started a local Whatsapp writing group, giving people the opportunity to express themselves creatively. She says that being able to write and paint is like having a pulse and that it makes her healthier physically mentally and spiritually.

During the gathering we were set the task of creating something, be it a picture of a poem etc., in response to the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?’ Here are a few examples of what was produced from Kathryn, Broden and Isaac:

Finally, we heard from the musician Isaac who explained how he has been using music to honestly express the loneliness of lockdown, and how writing songs can help him get into a better headspace. In response to the question, ‘Are we all in the same boat?’ Isaac said that there isn’t even a boat in the first place. You can listen to ‘It Could be Worse’, a song about Covid-19 here.

Next week we will be looking beyond the lockdown and imagining a better future post-coronavirus. We will be hearing from Barry Knight from Rethinking Poverty and others to hear how they think society can change for the better as we come out of this pandemic. Join us on Tuesday to share your thoughts and ideas about how to stop things just going back to a normal that we know wasn’t working.

Over the following few weeks, the gatherings will be focussing on:

  • 19 May: ‘Building back better’ – visions of how we can do things differently after the pandemic
  • 26 May: Coordinated responses and resilience
  • 2 June:  Children and young people

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church on the Margins: resilience

A report from our 7 May online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Resilience (opening reflection by Martin Johnstone of the Church of Scotland)

Where have we seen new life/new ways of being?

  • New ‘churches’ have formed online. If these continue after lockdown how will we think about church ‘membership’? How will it be redefined? What does this mean for institutional churches?
  • People who are not usually ‘church-goers’ have joined online church services. It has become a ‘church without walls’.
  • Churches are continuing to do traditional services as usual.
  • In broadcast mode the content of online services is quite passive.
  • Foodbanks are too busy providing a service, they don’t have time to get to know people and gather their stories.
  • We can allow our online church gatherings to be messy, they do not need to be perfect. Sometimes things go wrong but this is more authentic.
  • Online church is safe space for people to engage.
  • More people are engaging online, at different times of the week.
  • We need to be church everyday of the week, not just Sundays.

Are there new resources and ideas about the church and how they can support communities to flourish?

  • One church community is taking an inter-faith approach to the alpha course … ‘Beta Max’ is an inter-faith gathering where people come together to discuss faith.
  • Examples of church ministers visiting people living on the street, bringing them food, etc. also providing packed lunches to children who are missing out on free school meals, and printed educational packs for families who do not have internet access.
  • How can we include people who are invisible during the pandemic, people who are digitally excluded?
  • Online church is more accessible for young families. Online children’s liturgy.
  • New gifts are being uncovered in the new spaces.
  • We need to be alongside and reach out to people on the margins, not ‘saviours’ dropping in and out of people’s lives.
  • We can minister to each other, we don’t have to follow the model of priest as leader and congregation. E.g. Some people have organised family funerals themselves.
  • The model of priest/minister as leader/gatekeeper needs to change. ‘The priesthood of all believers’.
  • We should keep the good things from online church when lockdown is over.
  • Some churches do not currently have ‘permission’ to help with the crisis response locally. Individuals are doing things but not representing the church.
  • Some churches are looking after their own members but not reaching out to others in the community. Will the community notice if the church reopens?
  • Food pantries as examples of community-led organisations.
  • How do we create a safe online space for people to talk about how they are feeling?

Are there any examples of churches standing alongside those on the margins (not speaking for them)?

  • Not many visible examples of the church response, some church members are probably involved in service delivery but the ‘official church’ is less visible. … Can we offer our church buildings to others who are responding in the community?
Research and Information Officer

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Shopping online? You can raise money to loosen the grip of poverty

Easyfundraising lets you raise free donations for Church Action on Poverty when you shop online.

The pandemic and lockdown are sweeping millions of people further into poverty, while making it more difficult to raise the funds to help projects that anchor people and tackle poverty. We know that many people now have less money to use supporting causes. But there is a way you can still raise funds to tackle poverty.

You may now be doing more of your shopping online. So it’s the perfect time to sign up to Easyfundraising – a system which generates free donations for Church Action on Poverty when you shop online.

Easyfundraising has over 4,000 shops and sites which will donate to us at no extra cost to yourself, including lots of big-name retailers like John Lewis, Argos, Uswitch, eBay, M&S, Just Eat, Now TV, Domino’s Pizza and Audible.

All you have to do is sign up to support us using the link below. Then every time you shop online, go through the Easyfundraising website or app and we’ll receive a percentage of your spend as a free donation, at no cost to you or us.

Support is urgently needed -please take a moment to sign up and help stop more people being swept into poverty and hunger.

Communications and Supporter Relations Manager

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Listen up! New podcast to help end poverty

Our new Cast To End Poverty will bring stories and insights from across the UK, from people helping to create a more just and compassionate society

We work with some wonderful people and projects, who are making a huge difference in their communities, helping to loosen poverty’s grip and challenging unjust systems.

We always want to share these stories, and are always keen to find new ways to do so. That’s why, this week, we’ve launched our new podcast: the Cast To End Poverty.

In each episode, we will hear new stories and perspectives from across the movement to end poverty. Very often, we’ll hear directly from people with personal experiences of UK poverty, learning what exacerbates poverty and what can unlock it. And we’ll frequently highlight steps you can take, to help to create a more just and compassionate society.

Our first episode is online now, and you should be able to subscribe through your regular podcast platform within the next few days.

We’ll be chatting to a wide range of people over the coming weeks and months.

In our first episode, our director Niall Cooper talks with Hannah Lambie-Mumford from the University of Sheffield, about the social and economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak. They discuss the sudden increase in people needing support with food provision and discuss potential solutions and shared ideals.

Niall and Hannah discuss some of the ideas and suggestions raised by Niall in this article.

During the coronavirus outbreak, we have all been struck by the outpouring of kindness in neighbourhoods up and down the country. None of us wants to see our neighbours being cut adrift or left without access to good food. None of us is happy with families being swept into debt or children being held back in their schoolwork because they don’t have the same access to digital resources as others. 

The need for just and compassionate systems has been brought into sharp focus but the need existed before and will exist long after the outbreak. By listening to new stories and new insights, and by listening to new voices, we can all help create a better society.

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church on the Margins in the time of coronavirus

Reflections from our first online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Opening reflection by Carmel Murphy Elliott, with an introduction by Church Action on Poverty director Niall Cooper

Personal

  • Lots of people have been extremely busy for the last few weeks in the response, now feeling very tired, but settling down, new routines forming.
  • Personal loss/bereavement
  • Feelings of powerlessness

Reaching people

  • Service-users (e.g. homeless) don’t know what’s going on, don’t have access to information.
  • Concerns for people who are isolated alone.
  • People with no tech or phones – where are the gaps/ how can we reach people? (e.g. refugees and asylum seekers, the elderly).
  • Local community networks have suffered (again difficult to reach people who are not online).
  • We need to think small, focus on helping our neighbours.
  • Difficult decisions, e.g. closing foodbanks, running out of food. Others are still providing hot meals for homeless people.
  • Marginalised people are still facing the worst of this, access to food, etc.

Reflection

  • What will the ‘other side’ look like (when this is over)?
  • Envisioning the future ‘another world is possible’. Change for society.
  • Key workers (low-paid) are now incredibly valued.

Church

  • Theology of death (and life) needs consideration/attention.
  • More people are attending/taking part in online services than usual church numbers (it’s more accessible for people with internet).
  • Challenges for clergy – funerals and managing their own mental health.
  • Avoid ‘saviour syndrome’
  • The need for theological reflection  – now and beyond this.
  • We need to continue to be creative and include people after this.
Research and Information Officer

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Solidarity and sacrifice

Reflections from our 9 April online discussions on what it means to be church on the margins during the pandemic.

Opening reflection by Deirdre Brower Latz

The Church needs to change after Coronavirus

  • The church needs to be called to account and radically share its resources
  • Churches need to be transformed/reimagined/ authentic – not carry on as before
  • Some churches are not involved in the crisis response / how are affluent areas responding?
  • New collaborations and alliances should be maintained

Solidarity

  • Many people are not online, some churches have been delivering resources to people to keep in touch
  • Inequalities have been exposed
  • ‘God is showing us new things from the perspective of the last and the least.’
  • Lack of understanding among decision-makers
  • Helping at the uber local level
  • Chatting to people in the foodbank queue / checking in with people
  • Increase in volunteering / kindness
  • Communities are coming together

Sacrifice

  • It’s an inconvenience for some, not a sacrifice
  • Giving up small foodbank, letting bigger one take over to make sure resources reach people
  • Being separated from people and the church building
  • Domestic violence / conflicts at home
  • Feeling / being powerless

Learning from others

  • What can we learn from people who were marginalised before? E.g. some people with autism do not like touch / prefer social distance. What can we learn from this?

Holy Week and Easter

  • Solidarity of Jesus / turning the tables
  • Foot washing / caring / nursing / healing / self-care
  • Receiving, not giving (is ok) – gratitude
  • Sadness and joy in Easter

Reaching people

  • Some people have no way of communicating at the moment, no phone or internet
  • Reaching people who are homeless ?

Voice

  • Importance of speaking to society / government about how people are being affected – people to speak out
  • Disability activism
  • Society has to change

Reimagining

  • Solidarity and sacrifice as counter- infections (fighting the virus)
Research and Information Officer

Viral Song

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

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

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 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

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

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

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 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

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

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

You can’t eat the view

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June