This blog was originally posted on the Jubilee+ website by Jennie Pollock.
I want to tell you about two truths.
The first truth is that poverty is on the rise in the UK.
A recent investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty found that a fifth of the UK population – 14 million people – are living in poverty. It predicted that by 2021 two fifths of British children will be living in poverty.
More and more people are being forced to rely on foodbanks and other charities for their most basic needs, and you may have seen reports recently that thousands of homeless children are living in converted office blocks and shipping containers with their families.
And this is in the nation with the fifth largest economy in the world.
The news is bad, and experts tell us it will almost certainly get worse in the coming years.
The second truth is the truth of what God says about the people in greatest need in our nation and our world. It comes from the passage from Isaiah 61 that Jesus quoted about himself:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
‘The poor’ here doesn’t just mean those in financial poverty, it includes the lonely, those held captive by debt, slavery or addiction, it includes those in prison.
And what is this good news? It is news of hope and dignity and flourishing:
They – the poor, the broken-hearted, the enslaved, the prisoners – they will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
We at Jubilee+ firmly believe that that promise is still true today. It is the vision we have for the marginalised in our nation, that we would see them not only warm and well-fed, but vital parts of our churches and communities. Rebuilding the systems and relationships that have been broken. Bringing about change from the inside out, and from the ground up.
The reason we exist is to envision and equip local churches and Christians to more effectively engage with and support the poorest people in their communities to bring this about. We do this through writing, speaking, training, our annual conference, research and networking.
And we also exist to speak to the media and those in power to try to bring about change from the top down, too. God has given us incredible open doors in these areas. We were privileged to have an open dialogue with the former Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Amber Rudd. We have also had positive conversations with the highest civil servant in the DWP, and with members of the House of Lords, about how the benefits system in our country can be improved to ensure that people don’t get trapped in – or even pushed into – poverty.
This year we are holding our annual conference in Bristol, on 16 November. We call the conference ‘Churches that Change Communities’, because that is our vision for what we – you and I and the churches we are part of – are called to be. Community changers. Opportunity offerers. Hope givers.
If you’re concerned about the needs in the UK, or inspired by the hope of that prophecy; if you want to explore how you and your church can care for the poorest most effectively; if you’re wondering how to build better bridges between your existing projects and the church, or how to prepare for more poverty in the future, you should book in!