Heather Black, development worker for Together Middlesbrough, made her maiden speech in Synod last week. It's fantastic and we wanted to share it with you all.
"Thank you for calling me to speak. I live in North Ormesby, an urban parish near the centre of Middlesbrough, one of the parishes that took part in the research with Theos, which is mentioned on p1 of the paper we are debating today. The community I live in, reflects many of the indicators of inequality that exist in our country today. North Ormesby is in the bottom 0.5% most deprived parishes in England. 55% of children live in poverty, and if you are boy your life expectancy at birth is 16 years less and if you are a girl you can expect to live 22 years less than more affluent parts of England. Is it really acceptable in 21st century Britainthat there should be such devastating variations in life chances for our children?
We have become a society dominated so often by self-interest and because of the economic crisis, a blame culture has been allowed to develop, where the finger has been pointed all too often at people who are just the same as you and me, but their life chances and opportunities are dramatically different.
Our church runs a families drop-in and sometimes on a Friday morning after the school run the mums ask me if I’m not busy to pop-in for a coffee. The conversation is always about our families and especially our children – it’s the thing we have in common and we all want to do the very best we can for our kids. BUT our choices are different, I never have to make the choice of not eating so I can feed my children, I never have to choose between heating or eating).
We here are just the same as the mums I share coffee with, we want the best for those we love, but often the choices we can make are different. Should we pursue those choices and somehow imagine that we are different? No we MUST remind ourselves of our shared humanity, and the unique dignity of everyone in our society and be a voice that speaks out loud and clear for the common good of all.
I work for the CUF, which allows me to see many excellent projects and activities addressing needs in communities across Middlesbrough. But as the Theos report emphasizes it is not so much what churches are doing, but the way that they are doing it that is so important. It is the simple acts of human kindness, the way that people come alongside others, value them, listen to them and are willing to build relationships with them that is truly transformative. So many people who are struggling in our country feel forgotten, overlooked, devalued and isolated, and it is the hospitality and welcome on offer in our churches that can be the beginning of change. In simple terms it is being Good Neighbours, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Middlesbrough Food bank was started by local churches but now has over 100 churches and organisations supporting it, some how the church has helped people rediscover what loving our neighbour looks like. It is simple but powerful, it is when the “they” becomes an “us” and is the absolute foundation of pursuing the common good, living out fully what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves."
Heather Black, Together Middlesbrough
Author: Bethany Eckley
Date: 21 July 2014
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