Thursday, 25 January 2018

The 'Big Society'

This week I sat in on our Partnership in Mission Committee as the issue of our Communion Offerings was discussed. It’s this committee’s responsibility to nominate the various charities we support on a monthly basis – and this forms an important part of our church’s ‘Mission Giving’.  I found it fascinating to look at the briefing papers and see the various organisations we’ve given to in recent years.  These are often small charities supported by our members and recommended by them.  On average we give to both the ‘parent’ denominations of our church, Christian Aid, eleven organisations through the Communion Offering and to three further charities through our Christmas Offerings.  All of that added up, last year, to just under £20,000 worth of support.

I want to suggest that this represents exemplary commitment by our congregation that flies in the face of what they call ‘compassion fatigue’.

In my experience churches are full of people whose faith and conviction makes them into communities of consistent generosity.
A few years ago I was at a Ministers’ Meeting addressed by our local MP who also happened to be a cabinet minister.  He arrived late having been detained at 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister.  A little group of them had been called together following the announcement that the government believed in ‘The Big Society’.  This small cabinet group was being asked: what could the ‘Big Society’ look like?  It was a somewhat astonishing insight into the process of government policy: announce it first and work out what it really means afterwards!

Well our Ministers’ Meeting was in no such doubt as to what a ‘Big Society’ looks like – and we told the cabinet minister that we all stood in front of one every week!  For we stand before groups of worshippers who volunteer in both church and society, who have deep pockets of generosity and who embrace new projects with remarkable enthusiasm considering the routine commitments they already regularly maintain.  And part of this is represented by all those Communion Offerings we were discussing on Tuesday morning – as well as the 193 jobs/tasks that need doing in our church and are not only listed in our current directory but actually have names of people beside every one – volunteers who regularly step up to the mark.

‘Community’ is, I believe, a central theme in Christianity – and when it comes to the idea of the ‘Big Society’ I’m thrilled to say that in my experience churches really do ‘practice what they preach’!

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