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Jan 11 Archdeacon Richard: There's a knock at the door...

The Vicar opens it and there is one of the regular callers. It’s a young woman, pasty looking, slightly scruffy, shivering because she is thinly dressed for the time of year. She’s run out of money on the gas and electricity cards - could the Vicar put some money on them? The Vicar sighs, gets wallet and car keys, and takes her to the Co-op to buy some basic foods (bread, beans with sausages in, apples, tea, sugar, milk) and top up the cards.

She’s on benefit of course. Last Christmas, instead of getting her presents from a charity shop (ie second-hand), she bought some stuff from a catalogue, and at the hundreds of percent interest rate charged, now has a lot of week left at the end of the money. The Bible has a word for the catalogue business practices - usury - and it is roundly condemned. Hence Credit Unions, where they would have been careful to lend only what they knew she could afford to repay, and at very low interest rates. And hence a plea for Churches and congregations to support them, as some are already doing. The knock at the door could have been something different: someone running from domestic violence perhaps? Do they have to come to us? Haven’t we seen people with poor English serving in a restaurant, or the gangs of cockle pickers in the south, and have we wondered what they are paid and what their working conditions are? Perhaps there are three or four sorts of answers to this question. Some of us, if we’re honest, don’t notice - perhaps because we have enough burdens of our own. And in any case, we may not feel that this is anything to do with the Church. To which God says, in both Old and New Testaments, “seek justice for the poor�. Some of us might want to try to get the caller at the door, the migrant worker, to come to Church - Church-going, following Jesus, are good things. But I suspect God responds that he commands justice for everyone, and that giving which conceals or doesn’t conceal a “come and join us� message is not generosity, nor does it work (but is probably viewed with cynicism). Some of us will say that all this stuff about justice is beyond us; we do our best to help when people are in trouble. Of course the Church in Cumbria has a proud record of being right behind the Emergency Services in helping in crises. I am sure that God has blessed this work, but I do think he calls us to take the next couple of steps: to see where help is needed when the crisis is less obvious; and to think what we could do before it gets so bad that it is a crisis - in other words to ask about justice. Some of us may feel that we understand all this - but what can we do? Credit Unions, Domestic Violence, Migrant Workers - and many others - are all areas of work in which Church people are already involved. The (ecumenical) Social Responsibility Forum is “on the case� and always looking for volunteers, as is our own at present under-developed Social Action Network. We’d love to hear from you: make this engagement with the world, which is both God’s and ours, part of your growth in discipleship.

  • The Rev’d Dr Emma Ineson named as new Bishop of Penrith Posted Wednesday 9 May 2018 ...