Addressing poverty and inequality

The imperative for Christian communities to engage in social action and social justice lies at the heart of our faith. 

Each edition of Pathways explores one of five focus areas for our common life together. The focus areas aren’t a description of all that our 812 churches are involved in, but they do represent the areas that we think God is currently calling us to pay particular attention to as we seek to become a more Christ-like Church.

The diocese has always prioritised issues of poverty and marginalisation. With churches embedded in every community across the Thames Valley, we’re uniquely positioned to be alongside and with marginalised people; to hear their needs and to mobilise community-wide engagement.

Thinking about poverty

  • It’s easy to think that poverty is simply about income. It’s actually a web of interlinked factors relating to economic position, material conditions and social relationships that together have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to flourish.
  • Issues of poverty intersect with a range of other inequalities, including race, gender, disability and class. The COVID-19 pandemic and the likely recession that will follow will only exacerbate existing inequalities across our diocese.
  • Local context matters; there is no single model for community engagement. Parishes are influenced by how many in the local community are living on very low and insecure incomes and also by the level of economic inequality in their area.

A steering group formed just over a year ago aims to address specific questions of poverty and inequality. It has been good to have external representation from The Children’s Society, Christians Against Poverty and Citizens Advice. 

By engaging with our communities, dealing with the things on our doorstep that we can do something about and challenging unjust structures, we can begin to address issues of poverty and inequality. Here are just some of the resources and initiatives already in place:

Understanding poverty in our region

Addressing Poverty and Inequality: Supporting churches to love and serve their communities during COVID-19 and beyond is a new report available to download from our website. The report tells the story of poverty and inequality in a wide range of community and church contexts across the Thames Valley region.

Community engagement

We are investing £150,000 in community organising over a five-year period to establish civil society alliances for social justice in Reading and Oxford, to support action in rural contexts, and to join these with Citizens Milton Keynes to form Thames Valley Citizens. It’s a long-term project that will help to challenge the underlying causes of poverty and take action for the common good.

Helping refugees

The Revd Liz Jackson, Associate Archdeacon of Berkshire, is leading an initiative to provide online structured language learning and employment skills training for Hongkongers arriving in Berkshire. Working together with the Chinese church in Reading, hundreds of people have asked for support with language learning, friendship and employment skills.

Transforming the gig economy

The gig economy provides essential income and opportunities to many. However, lacking protection from employment law or collective bodies, many platform workers face unfair and dangerous working conditions. The diocese has become a Fairwork supporter, joining with others to encourage the gig economy to make their organisations a fairer and safer place to work.

Discovering poverty in your area

In the first of a number of ‘how-to’ films to be produced in 2022, Emma Kennedy from Chipping Norton shares her top tips for churches looking to address poverty in their own context. Find it on our website at the address below.

To find out more about this focus area and the tools and funds to assist you, visit oxford.anglican.org/our-vision-and-values


 

10 ways to address poverty

Pray – The Trussell Trust has downloadable resources to help you pray for a hunger free future: trusselltrust.org

Watch I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You to learn about the benefits system and the gig economy. 

Learn the signs of modern slavery. Know how to report anything suspicious: theclewerinitiative.org

Offer to buy food for someone experiencing homelessness. Ask how they are and link them to local services: streetlink.org.uk

Go without – try living on the asylum seeker weekly allowance. That’s just £39.63pp for food, clothing and toiletries. 

Commit to welcoming people who are seeking asylum or who are refugees. Get your church to join welcomechurches.org

Find out if your clothes are produced ethically and discover how to shop ethically and sustainably. directory.goodonyou.eco

Find out if your church and employer is paying the real living wage. Ask them to get accredited if not: livingwage.org.uk

Join in with local groups to campaign for social justice. Could your church be part of Citizens UK? Visit citizensuk.org

Volunteer your time (once or regularly) to an organisation or event addressing poverty or inequality in your area.


 

This article is taken from the January 2022 edition of Pathways.

Page last updated: Monday 19th December 2022 9:52 AM

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