Niall Cooper: Stand in solidarity
A Church for the poor
Pope Francis has said that he wants “a poor Church, for the poor” – but what does it actually mean to be a Church of and for the poor? Here in the UK, are our churches doing enough to stand in solidarity with people in poverty? This is a question which Church Action on Poverty has wrestled with for more than 30 years, but one which we will be pursuing with renewed vigour over the coming months, as we launch our new “Church for the poor” programme.
What is our shared vision of a good society, and how can people struggling with poverty, or other forms of marginalisation or exclusion, fit within it? How can we enable the insights and gifts of people living in poverty to be recognised by wider society and those with power and influence – both in the churches and in wider society?
Pope Francis has certainly sought to model “a poor Church, for the poor” in his own life, and his attempts to inspire the Roman Catholic Church to think and act differently. But the question of what it truly means for the church to become “a poor Church, for the poor” is one that applies equally to Churches of all denominations.
Brother Robert, an Anglican Franciscan, makes this challenging observation: “England is a deeply entrenched class society, with ever decreasing social mobility since the 80s. It seems to me that many of the problems in poor areas are related to the fact that great segments of the working class have given up hope for a decent and fulfilling life. Now, clergy and even our youth workers are by and large middle-class people. Despite all their commitment, they have a very different outlook on life and they speak a different language. How can we make the Christian experience meaningful to working-class people if they can’t relate to the middle-class packaging?”..
This is an extract from the June 2016 edition of Reform.