Mapping Faith in Action
Almost two million volunteers serve their communities in faith-based projects across Britain. Matt Bird unveils the results of a project mapping what churches are doing for their local area, and explains why it matters
Over the last decade or so, I have become more and more convinced that, whilst faith is profoundly personal, it is not a private matter. Christianity is a public faith. It has a great deal to say about how we choose to live together as a society.
Jesus told his followers: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Jesus intended us to be visible. Faith is not for hiding, any more than lamps are; but for bringing light into the darkness around us. In the UK today, local churches have an unprecedented opportunity to do this, by offering practical help to those people most in need.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies published findings in January showing that, to meet plans announced in the chancellor’s 2014 autumn statement, departmental spending cuts of £51.4bn (on top of the £38.2bn already made in the last five years) are needed in the course of this new parliament. All the fat has already been trimmed – the next cuts to central and local government welfare provision will have to go much deeper. The needs of people in local communities across the country will be greater than ever.
Local authorities, police and other agencies know that they need all the help they can get, and are increasingly turning to faith groups to take up the slack. Some churches, however, have found it hard to know how to approach their local authorities and police forces to offer their services. Anecdotally, they know what their work is having an impact in those people most in need, but official bodies need more than great stories, they need hard facts and figures….
This is an extract from the July/August 2015 edition of Reform.