The Glaven Valley Benefice – Monthly Letter
As I write this it is the season of Lent and some of us have been following a Pilgrim booklet that the Church of England has published with 40 readings around the teachings in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who hunger and thirst and are persecuted for justice; the Church is called to be a foretaste of this kingdom here on earth. Social justice was the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which we celebrated at a special service at Wiveton in January.
In the past the Church of England may not have had a lot to say about social justice, unlike the Catholic and Methodist churches, where it has always been a strong concern. But under Archbishop Justin – who was in Blakeney recently – this is changing. The Archbishop’s campaign against the worst excesses of payday lenders has had results and recently he has called for the rollout of Universal Credit to be stopped. He has said: ‘Universal Credit was supposed to make it simpler and more efficient. It has not done that. It has left too many people worse off, putting them at risk of hunger, debt, rent arrears and food banks… if they cannot get it right, they need to stop rolling it out.’ A recent announcement from the minister in charge, Amber Rudd, that she is delaying the rollout of the system to two million people until she has had further time to study its impact, suggests that this having an effect.
In case you think that all this is becoming too political and that we don’t do politics in church, it’s worth looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject. In the Old Testament, in the law of Moses, strangers, the orphans and the widows were all to be treated as full members of society, while the Jews were always being reminded that they had once been slaves in a foreign country (Egypt).
Similarly Jesus’s concern for the marginalised members of society, for widows, for those stricken with diseases and for children, is a constant theme in the Gospels. Jesus quoted Isaiah’s words in the first sermon that he gave in Nazareth: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Of course it’s easy to hear about the state of the world – and our own country – from TV, the radio and newspapers and throw our hands up in despair and wonder what can we possibly do about the terrible poverty found in so many countries – and our own, where, at the last count there were 598 homeless people in Norfolk and where there is a need for a foodbank in Cromer?
I believe we shouldn’t give up. We all can do our bit to help, even if it’s very modest; if enough of us do it, whether it’s donating to the Cromer Foodbank or the St Martin’s Housing Trust (which helps the homeless in Norwich) or the King’s Lynn Winter Night Shelter or to a charity like Christian Aid, or choosing fairtrade food when we shop, or giving up time to volunteer in Glaven Caring or whatever it may be – if enough of us do these things, we can make a difference.