Saturday, 30 October 2010

3 ‘R’s… or maybe 4?

It doesn’t take a particularly gloomy prophet of doom to hazard a guess that, in a place like this, there will, in the next year or two, be more people jobless, more people homeless, more people who struggle to feed, clothe and adequately care for those in their household.

It strikes me that the church – wot I work for – and other practitioners and community groups locally, might helpfully focus our responses around 3 ‘R’s, or maybe 4, a little different from those prioritised by government Education departments…

Relief – helping ‘plug gaps’ in providing those basic essentials of life – food, clothes, furniture, cash for the meter, that kind of stuff. The tins we collected for Harvest this year are, already, going to homes that have needed them more than before. We can ask valid questions about dependency, we can wonder if we are subsidising unhealthy habits, but responding to Jesus’ command to “give to everyone who asks” with a radical generosity is, in the first instance, about meeting urgent needs and not turning hungry people away.

Resilience – it’s a word that’s used in relation to surviving disasters – but perhaps that’s not too far from the truth. How can we move beyond meeting urgent needs in individual households, to developing strong local neighbourly relationships, and strong local community organisations, that can help us survive together, supporting those in most need?

Regeneration – at a time where lots of the usual pots of money are drying up, both for major capital investment and for paying key local practitioners (Neighbourhood Management, for example, is likely to end here next April), how can we keep our eyes beyond the pressing horizon of surviving, to a more hopeful vision of long-term transformation? How can we discover, amidst the demands of ‘simply coping’, the possibility of discovering the best, most flourishing, community we can possibly be? Christians talk about ‘resurrection’ (life coming out of the broken ruins of death) in a way that is qualitatively different to the kind of linear progress that ‘investment’ language suggests. Perhaps resurrection language is needed more than ever?

And then a 4th ‘R’…

Resistance – ‘relief’ and ‘resilience’, simply coping, can allow national politics to get away with its idolatrous mistakes, making the poorest bear the heaviest burdens in the climate of cuts. Even ‘regeneration’ can encourage us to keep our heads down and just get on with ‘making good’ here. There is a ‘No’ to be said, from neighbourhoods like ours, to the assumptions and the decisions of politicians still caught up in the capitalist worldview. Economic growth is not the end to justify any means for ‘recovery’, at the expense of the ones Jesus names as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. What opportunities can we find to add our voices to those of many others, to do our best to resist what is being presented to us as inevitable? is one place to start…

1 comment:

  1. Al, this is extremely useful. I'm going to take this away to pray and think through - it is a good template to do some thinking about how we handle the situation at St Bede's and St Gabriel's.