Jesus showed a special concern for the poor and outcast which is why, as his followers, we are called to do the same. While many have poverty thrust upon them, there are some who, wishing to identify with the poor, choose poverty and a life of simplicity. Poverty can be an oppressive burden or a spiritual discipline. The poor are particularly close to the heart of God and are blessed by God.
Over the last year, there has been an increased awareness of the plight of the poor and 2015 will be a particularly significant year for poverty. Despite brighter economic figures, the number of people using foodbanks continues to grow. The Bishop of Truro and Frank Field MP have chaired a major parliamentary enquiry into foodbanks and food poverty in Britain. ‘Listen to God: Hear the Poor’ was an initiative launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster last April when the Archbishops were encouraging churches to join them in praying for the work of the Church helping those in need.In May the Pope called upon the United Nations to initiate a “worldwide ethical mobilization” that would address the plight of the poor. The Millennium Development Goals (agreed by the United Nations in 2000 and whose foundation was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015) are to be revisited and redefined in 2015.
For these reasons, Bishops James and Brian are asking the diocese to focus on Challenging Poverty in 2015. The aims are to:
- Raise awareness of poverty (both overseas and at home)
- Understand the reasons for poverty
- Discover how God blesses the poor
- Explore how to respond to poverty
- Celebrate humanity
- Ask ‘what next?’ to ensure there is action as a result of the theme.
Communities and parishes are encouraged to explore the theme in creative, innovative and eye-catching ways, involving local communities where possible. There will be resources on the diocesan web site (See Noticeboard on www.rochester.anglican.org ) from the middle of December.
There will be four events organised for the diocese as a whole:
- A Lent Course, Challenging Poverty, with a DVD (see below)
- A Day Conference on Saturday 9th May when the main speakers will be the Archbishop of Tanzania (from our partner diocese of Mpwapwa) and Revd.Dr. Susan Durber, Theology Co-ordinator for Christian Aid (details will be available later)
- Pentecost Sunday (24th May) – a short liturgy which can be included in Pentecost services committing worshippers to action on poverty.
In addition, church primary schools will be studying the topic of poverty for a term and this will be the theme of Year 6 Schools Services which will be taking place across the diocese in June.
The Lent course will be available from the beginning of January. A DVD will accompany printed notes for leaders and participants. The DVD will contain brief interviews explaining each week’s discussion and videos to illustrate the points being made. The notes and DVD clips can be downloaded from the diocesan web site (via Noticeboard on www.rochester.anglican.org ). If you prefer the DVD and notes to be sent to you, please contact Gill Miller at the Diocesan Office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01634 560000) as soon as possible and they will be sent when available. If you would like to make a voluntary contribution towards the cost of producing these materials, please send a cheque payable to ‘Rochester DBF – Challenging Poverty’, Diocesan Office, St. Nicholas Church, Boley Hill, Rochester, ME1 1SL.
Make a difference
Poverty is challenging and complex. Over the years, countless lives have been transformed when poverty is confronted. The challenges may seem overwhelming, but we really can make a difference. We pray that Challenging Poverty will provide opportunities to make that difference.