A key part of our ActBC theme is the LoveBC part. This is because we believe that as Christians we are called to obey the two greatest commandments first to love God with all our hearts and second to love our neighbours as ourselves. This is part and parcel of The Great Commission, making disciples of Jesus includes teaching those disciples to obey everything he has commanded.
This is important because
- What we believe affects how we live. If we believe that God is Love then we should live lives of love.
- As I mentioned the other day, how we act creates a legacy. It is pointless having strong, passionately held views on doctrinal and ethical issues if we don’t live loving lives.
This is particularly important when we begin to talk about the abortion debate. It is no good saying that we #LoveBoth mother and child if there’s no practical evidence of this. So, I want to talk practically in this article about what we can do and be involved in. First of all, I want to mention some of the things happening locally, then I want to mention some things that are happening nationally.
Toddlers Groups: Young families need support, encouragement and friendship. One of the simplest ways of helping to provide this for mums, dads and carers is the old classic of the “Toddlers, play and stay group.” Our Toddlers groups are as much about the parents/carers as they are about the children. It’s through 1-1 conversations as other parents and grandparents get alongside others that a listening ear, practical advice and prayer is offered.
ESOL Classes. We have provided a variety of English classes over more than 20 years. These classes are a way of accessing life in the UK for those who are new to country. Many come back over the years not just for the English lessons but for the opportunity to find community and friendship.
Food. Sadly, food and fuel poverty are major issues for many people in our inner cities and on our estates. Initially we were involved with the local food bank project. However, we felt that asking people to walk in one direction to ask for a voucher before walking back in the other direction to receive a handout did not feel close enough to the values of welcome and respect we wanted to encourage. Now, we try to keep a stock of emergency food bags for anyone who is in need. Additionally, our community café offers food and drink at low costs and we run on a pay want you can philosophy, those who are not able to pay are not expected to and those who can only pay a little do so. Often those able to pay more do so freely knowing this is helping others.
Volunteering. We want to encourage a sense of community not a situation where people become dependent upon handouts. Over the past few years we have seen people who have received practical help get involved in our Community Café in order to give something back to the community. This also provides opportunities for those who have been out of the job market for some time to gain experience, skills and confidence. It’s wonderful when they go on to find full time work.
Advice and advocacy. A lot of people in our community have the challenge of facing a hostile and bureaucratic system. This may be to do with obtaining the appropriate benefits or getting leave to remain in the UK. Often people have had to flee horrendous situations in their home countries, torture, kidnap, prison, blackmail, abuse, rape, FGM etc. As a church, we have tried to come alongside people, to offer advice, to make sure they find appropriate legal representation and to sit alongside them at appointments. Our aim is to help them to be able to speak for themselves without fear.
These are some of the things that we have done together as a medium sized local church as have many other churches up and down the country.
I want to mention here a few fantastic national schemes run by Christian charities that are helping people to show love to others.
Home For Good was set up by Krish Kandiah in order to encourage and support people considering adopting or fostering
Safer Families for Children is another charity focused on supporting vulnerable families and children. In this case the focus is on helping facilitate emergency and respite care.
Christians against Poverty (CAP) offer debt counselling and help for those who are struggling with poverty.
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) was set up by a former teacher who was concerned at the number of young people disaffected from school and the risks they were putting themselves under. Her concern was to provide early intervention to offer an alternative way forward. The result was a network of learning centres and mentors who go into school to offer 1-1 coaching in literacy and numeracy as well as a listening ear.
So, here are a number of ways that you can get involved with loving your community.