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The price of conformity – a poem from ‘Same Boat?’

This poem by Jayne Gosnall comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

The Price of Conformity

School shoes. Cost big. Growing feet
Struggle. Worry. Missed heartbeats
Wish that those who make the rules
Remember our kids go to school.

White shirts. Black skirts. Black trousers 
Black socks. Black shoes. No trainers. 
All kids hate them, fight against ‘em
No colour, stripes or fancy laces

Special school ties snag and fray.
Blazers shine more every day.
Mates might mock a hand-me-down
so got to buy new, scour the town.

Boy says all his mates have Vans
forgets they also have helpful Nans.
Girl says Kickers fine for her
I’m wishing that their Dad would care

Benefits not fit for purpose.
Constant fear. State couldn’t care less
When they’re laughed at ‘cause of me
of course I feel guilty.

Boy comes home after PE
says “My shoes got nicked!” expecting me
to solve the problem, like they’re free.
They’re our food budget for the week.
I cry so hard can barely speak


Every time I think of my sisters and brothers struggling to raise their children in poverty, I remember crying over my son’s stolen school shoes.

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My Mask – a poem from ‘Same Boat?’

This poem by Melanie Rogers comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

My mask keeps me safe.
It stops others asking if I’m OK.
It stops me having to lie
and prevents tears from coming.


My mask protects me.
It stops others seeing the real me,
the me that hurts so much,
that’s shattered inside, held together on the outside.

My mask keeps me shielded.
It saves me from feeling vulnerable.
It  saves me from being hurt,
from history being repeated.

My mask is a lie.
I’m not OK.
The tears are there, they’re just hidden.
The pain is there, it’s excruciating.

Not many people recognise my mask.
Not many people know me well enough;
I don’t let them.
Those that do terrify me.
I can’t bear to be hurt again.


I’ve worn my mask since I was a teenager. I’ve used it to hide the internal pain and distress I’ve carried with me since then, from those around me, be it family, friends, colleagues or professionals caring for me. I wear it well and I’m able to hide how distressed and/or ill I am, there are very few who can see past my mask. Just before lockdown I began to consciously let my mask slip in front of my therapist but as lockdown unfolded, so did a traumatic, personal life event and I had to stay strong, so my mask one again became fixed. But, I also began to recognise how my mask protected me and this led to me writing my first poem in years, ‘My Mask’.

 

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100 Days – a poem from ‘Same Boat?’

This poem by Earl Charlton comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

100 days now of lockdown and stress.
When are the government going to get a hold of this mess?
There are people like me who have been shielding wanting to see their family!
Come on! We have feelings.
It’s been 100 days now since I made an income.
These 100 days haven’t been much fun.
But being homeless before and living in social isolation,
give me the knowledge and sense to beat this complicated situation.
Routine, routine, is all I say.
Don’t let your mind take you away.
I for one was nearly there,
when I thought that we’d become homeless again,
but with the help and support of our local sources,
North East Homeless, Mercy Hub, Hope and more,
It’s made it easier to hang on a little longer.
Come on July the 6th I’m back to make an income.
These days are hard these days are dark,
but it will be easier as we put these dark
times behind but not forgotten in our hearts.
Let’s stand the fight, let’s come together.
We need each other now, more than ever!


I did this poem because I myself know what it’s like to live isolated on your own. Even on the busiest of streets you can feel alone. Mental health, addiction and homelessness definitely fits into loneliness. On the 100th day of lockdown I found out that I was able to go back to work and make an income, leading me to reflect on them 100 days. A very good friend of mine, Jeremy Cain, mentioned this poetry book to me, and encouraged me to write this poem, so I sat down and 10 mins later my feelings were once more on paper.

SPARK newsletter summer 2022

Cost of living crisis: 6 useful church responses

What is the Right To Food?

Hope story: a united stand against hunger

How we ensure struggles are not ignored

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The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

SPARK newsletter summer 2022

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2020

Annual report on the work of our local group in the North East of England

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

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Planning a Lent programme for your church in 2021?

'Life-Changing Stories' is Church Action on Poverty's new series of Bible studies, to be published on 8 October 2020.

‘Life-Changing Stories’ includes five Bible studies on the book of Acts. They offer challenging new perspectives on this story of people on the margins who were empowered to go out and change the world.

It is an ideal resource for churches or house groups running Lent programmes in 2021. It can also be used for personal study and reflection.

It is the third publication in Church Action on Poverty’s ‘Scripture from the Margins’ series. As with previous instalments, these studies respond to the way that the Bible shows us a God who is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins.

Commenting on a previous publication in the series, Revd Richard Lamey,  Rector of St Paul at Wokingham, said:

“An excellent course – accessible, opinionated, challenging, affirming and easy to lead and to build on… So many courses are dull and simplistic – yours opened up new vistas. There was never a sense of being forced into a right answer or finding an easy solution. It was a complex course for complex times and a complex faith.”

‘Life-Changing Stories’ features studies by five different authors, bringing a range of perspectives and expertise:

  • Jan Sutch Pickard, well known as a poet, storyteller and liturgist for the Iona Community
  • Revd Nick Jowett, author of Wisdom’s Children
  • Sue Richardson, Theological Education Adviser for Christian Aid
  • Ruth Wilde, National Coordinator of Inclusive Church
  • Revd Dr Raj Patta, an expert in Dalit liberation theology

Life-Changing Stories will be available for free from Church Action on Poverty’s website on 8 October. 

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The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

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Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

Click on the right to download the latest issue of Poverty Update, the newsletter of our local group in Sheffield.

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

SPARK newsletter autumn 2021

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SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Click on the right to download the autumn 2020 issue of SPARK, our newsletter for supporters of Church Action on Poverty.

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

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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?

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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.

The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

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The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

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You Can’t Eat the View

A report from End Hunger Cornwall

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Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

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