Our nation is facing one of its toughest periods in living memory.
The financial crash of a decade ago led to austerity measures that have impacted across swathes of society. Those who would never have considered themselves vulnerable have experienced poverty, been employed on zero-hour contracts, had to resort to foodbanks and see no end in sight. Social mobility is all but at an end. People feel trapped.
It is in this environment that the Greater Lincoln Active Faith Network operates bringing the compassion of Christ to marginalised communities.
The vision was first glimpsed in 2012 when financial cuts were beginning to take hold. It then took a few years to get a fuller picture of what God had in mind for us as churches. It had initially been envisaged that an officer would be appointed who could coordinate, or act as ambassador for the social action of the churches across Greater Lincolnshire. That has so far been a project too far. Instead we became more realistic in our aims. The Lincoln City Council expressed a hope that the churches could get their act together and appoint someone to whom they could relate when it came to social action.
I am absolutely thrilled that Sîan Wade is now our officer for Greater Lincoln. She is doing a truly fantastic job together with her team of volunteers.
The challenges we are facing as churches across the city of Lincoln are many; but this is also an exciting prospect because, even though these are probably amongst the toughest days for many years, we are clear in what it is that we have to do. God has placed us here, at this time, to act in ways that alleviate suffering and bring about transformation in individual lives and for whole communities.
In previous times of austerity, there followed disillusionment, lack of respect for government and social unrest. A rise in populism led to cataclysmic changes. It is difficult to not hear echoes of the past in the politics and public sentiment of today. The seriousness of the situation cannot be over-exaggerated.
Learning lessons from the past means that we, the Church, must not hide behind the doors of our buildings. It is our Christian duty, and moral responsibility, to engage as fully as possible with the social discourse, and to bring an ethical dimension to the meeting of needs. The disenchanted have to be listened to, their cries have to be heard. The hungry have to be filled. Those without purpose have to find meaning in life. All who feel undervalued have to know how precious they are.
No single church community can do this alone. It is absolutely vital that we work together in facing the great challenge of our generation. The future will judge what our action or inaction is now. It really doesn’t matter what your particular take is on sacramental theology, or the style of worship you prefer, what matters most is that you join with me and I with you, as Christians together, in bringing the hands and heart of Jesus into the lives of our neighbours and friends.