Posts Tagged ‘St Peter’s’

Tackling poverty together

January 19, 2011

When people suffer from material poverty and deprivation they don’t just suffer the lack of a few things, they lack a sense of confidence, they lack a sense of having a stake in society around them. They feel that they’ve fallen off the edge and they’re dispensable. –- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Charles Dickens exposed poverty in Victorian England. We may have the modern welfare state but poverty has not gone away. With the slash and burn of public services, the massive cuts in welfare and housing budgets, followed by local council cuts and rising unemployment, poverty can only get worse.

The figures are shocking.

Unemployment benefits were when introduced, 20% of average earnings. Sufficient to get by on, but not to live the life of Riley. They remained at this level all through the Thatcher years. Under New Labour, Unemployment Benefit fell in real terms, now only half of what is was.

It is not only Unemployment Benefits, the value of State Pension has also fallen. Compared with Europe, British Pensions fall well down the league tables.

Inflation is a poor indication of how people in poverty are faring. Money is spent disproportionately on food and fuel. Food and fuel prices have risen at a disproportionately faster rate than inflation. For households in fuel poverty winter can mean a choice of heat or eat.

Those on benefits are hit with a double whammy. The real value of benefits has halved, household expenditure has risen much faster than inflation.

– 13.2 million in the UK live in poverty of which 3.8 million are children
– 5.8 million have household income 1/3 below the poverty line
– poverty shortens lives and creates disadvantage
– it is getting worse

3.8 million children in poverty. That is 1 in 3 children are in poverty, one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world!

Poverty is complex and it is not just about money. Whilst poverty may be rooted in lack of money, it effects the quality of life. People feel disenfranchised, marginalised, no longer able to function or participate in society, their self worth falls. They become angry, addicted to drugs and alcohol. Families suffer, diet suffers, education suffers, families become dysfunctional. Many parents lack basic parenting skills. Children suffer at school, not just bullying, but they lack the ability to communicate, lack basic social skills. Often do not know their own name, do not know how to use a knife and fork, let alone possess table manners.

In the wealthiest area of London, a man will now have a life expectancy of 88 years. A few miles away in one of the capital’s poorer wards, male life expectancy is 71 years. [Fair Society, Healthy Lives Report, February 2010]

In the richest 10% of neighbourhoods, 59.8% of under-21s went to university, compared to 31.9% in the poorest 10% of neighbourhoods. [Office for National Statistics, 2010]

Children from deprived backgrounds are nearly a year behind their peers in language skills by the age of five. [Sutton Trust Report, Feb 2010]

Children living in disadvantaged families are over three times as likely to suffer from mental health problems as those in well-off families. [End Child Poverty, 2008]

A father’s income determines his son’s to a greater extent in Britain than in any other wealthy nation, with half of high earners’ ‘economic advantage’ being transmitted to their children. [Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2010]

In London homeless people are sleeping in rubbish bins to keep warm!

What is to be done? Jesus reached out to the poor, he associated with riff raff. He said (Matthew 25, 35, 36 & 40):

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Faith in the City showed the extent of poverty and deprivation in our inner cities. It was a wake up call. ‘That Marxist report’ as Margaret Thatcher called it led to the establishment of the Church Urban Fund.

Big Government works top down. This apart from providing the basic safety net of the Welfare State (which is being dismantled) does not work. We have to work bottom up. We have to work directly with those effected. We have to empower them.

Give a man fish and I am feeding him all his life. Show him how to fish and he can feed himself.

Church Urban Fund works with local activists, with locally-based church groups. It goes where others dare not tread. It provides seed funding to get local initiatives kick started.

Source Café is a Church Urban Fund funded project in Aldershot. Aldershot by any measure is a deprived area. The town centre is derelict, housing association estates are more like what you would expect in the Third World, unsafe to walk at night and not much safer in the daytime. Kids hang around, drift into violence, thieving, drug dealing, gang culture. Drug dealing is rife in the schools.

Source Café provides a safe environment for kids to hang out. Source Café was established, with the help of Jo Emmett, to provide a safe pace for 14 to 24 year olds. It has progressed beyond a café, to provide anger management, a young mum’s club, after school club. Young people work as volunteers, which helps their people skills and builds self esteem and confidence.

Source Café gets on-going funding, help and support from local churches.

The vision of Church Urban Fund is to see every church, every Christian working with the disadvantaged.

The Budget Deficit is being used as an excuse for slash and burn of public services – closure of libraries, firing of lollipop ladies, scrapping of Bookstart, sell off of our woods and forests, slashing welfare. Historically the Budget Deficit is not huge, yes, it should be reduced,, but at a rate the economy can afford. Were tax-dodgers like Sir Philip Green, Vodafone, Boots etc to pay their taxes there would be no Budget Deficit.

It is not just that the poor are getting poorer or that the number in poverty is on the increase, the gap between rich and poor is widening, the rich are getting richer.

The rich laugh all the way to their offshore banks. The Sunday Times Rich List 2010 has seen a £77 billion increase in wealth for British super rich in one year! That is Britain’s Super Rich have seen wealth rise by one third in one year! And for the likes of Sir Philip Green (or should that be Greed?) do not even pay tax! The rise is easily the largest annual increase in the 22 years that the survey has been carried out!

The IMF has said that if you wish to reduce the risk of financial instability then reduce inequality.

Corporate tax dodgers are now so worried that they are engaging PR consultants to slosh around some greenwash, but no amount of greenwash can hid the fact that they dodge their taxes and it is the poor who pay the price.

Meet n Chat takes place every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at St Peter’s Parish Centre, with occasional speakers. On the 3rd Wednesday of the New Year they hosted a talk by Hilary Elliott, Head of Church Relations from the Church Urban Fund.

St Peter’s contributes to the Soul Café, partly through donation, but mainly through volunteer helpers.

Also see

London 2011: Homeless men forced to sleep in bins

The Dispossessed: The homeless who slide down rubbish chute to their beds

Homeless at Christmas

National Audit Office to investigate UK tax deals with multinationals

Want to avoid financial crises? Then reduce inequality, says the IMF

Sunday Times Rich List 2010: Britain’s richest see wealth rise by one third

Why cuts are the wrong cure

Consultancies Gear Up For Corporate Reputation Fight

Christmas Carol Service at St Peter’s

December 19, 2010

I was actually wishing to go to an evening service at St Mark’s as I had never attended a service at St Mark’s but when I checked there was no evening service. St Peter’s then. But no, I did not feel like going, but a voice in my head told me to go.

I trekked through the snow. It must have been hovering around freezing as the snow was a little mushy, pleasant walking, and I walked fast to keep warm, but nevertheless by the time I neared St Peter’s I was chilled to the bone. As I approached St Peter’s I saw others heading that way, so I was pleased I was not the only one running late. The weather I thought.

I was greeted with a warm mince pie and mulled wine which was very welcome. People were wandering around, probably less than half full. A carol service I was told, which I thought was rather nice. I then learnt the service had been time shifted to 7pm, not its usual time of 6-30pm, so far from being as I thought late I was actually nearly half an hour early. The church soon filled and by 7pm, it was almost standing room only for late arrivals.

The first time I ever attended St Peter’s was a carol service about a decade ago. I was taking photos outside when I heard music from within the church. Investigating further I found it was a rock group rehearsing. I chatted to one of the group. Very generous of the church to let you use it for rehearsals, and the acoustics are excellent, I mused out loud. No, we are playing tonight, a carol concert, would you like to come. A group mangling carols did not sound particularly inviting so I politely declined. Later, I thought no, I have been kindly invited, the least I can do is have the good grace to accept the kind invitation. I attended and was pleasantly surprised. They were excellent musicians.

That was ten years or more ago. Now back to tonight. The lights were turned out and it was only then I noticed the pillars were encircled by candles. A very attractive scene. I regret no camera with me to record it.

We were entertained by a Monty Pythonesque nativity drama.

Christmas is a season of good tidings and joy, but is it for everyone?

Was it for Mary, an unmarried teenager who finds herself pregnant? Was it for Joseph who finds his betrothed not only pregnant, but not pregnant by him? He could have left her, but decided to stand by her. Think of the scandal. What were they to tell friends and relatives?

Christmas is not a season of good tidings and joy for those who have lost their job, those alone at Christmas, those who are homeless, those who have split up from someone with who they are deeply in love.

A strange translation of Luke. Sheep herders brought glad tidings. Sheep herders! The English language has the perfectly good word shepherd.

At least the reference was to a manger, not as I heard a few days ago animal feeding box!

Why shepherds? Jesus referred to himself as a shepherd tending his flock. In one of his tales he talks of being delighted at finding one of his sheep that had strayed and that one lost sheep was more important to him than the others that had not.

In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the central character is Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy. He has dreams, but unlike most people who fail to follow their dreams, he has the courage to change his life and follow his dreams. He also meets the mysterious Melchizedek who encourages him to follow his dreams.

I had an interesting conversion with the wife of the rector re making a labyrinth a central feature of the floor of the church. The floor has to be dug up during essential renovations, the pews are to be ripped out, it would therefore be an opportunity lost not to make a labyrinth a central feature of the floor space.

I was a little disappointed at so few carols at what was a carol concert. I felt very sad my lovely friend Sian was not with me.

At this time of year when our thoughts turn to Bethlehem, please give a thought to Bethlehem today. Once under Roman occupation, now under Israeli occupation. Bethlehem is an open-air prison encircled by an Apartheid Wall. [see Bethlehem Hidden from View]

Israel is blocking Christians going to Bethlehem at Christmas, including clergy. Why, because they are Palestinians.

One way we can help is by buying Palestinian fairtrade olive oil, for example Zaytoun which can be bought from The Triangle and many other sources. We only help finance ethnic cleansing by buying Israeli so-called Peace Oil which I regret to say is on sale in St Mary’s in Guildford. [see Peace oil or taking the piss?]

Also see

Victorian Christmas Carol Concert St Mark’s

The Digital Story of Christmas Nativity

Incredible ‘impromptu’ performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus

Handel – Messiah – For unto us a child is born

Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals

December 19, 2010

Do not have the time. Do not know how. These are common refrains, common excuses people give for not cooking, for dumping some ready mix of yuk seasoned with flavourings and colourings in the microwave or for ordering a take away.

Jamie Oliver adds a further excuse, costs too much.

Do not have the time. How many hours do people spend sat in front of a television watching brain-rotting moronic garbage, the opiate of the masses?

Do not know how. Well Jamie will show you.

Costs too much. Jamie costs out the ingredients and it works out cheaper than takeaways, ready meals or eating out. I would have been very surprised if it had been otherwise.

Yes, there is an initial cost of equipment and utensils that Jamie says are essential. He also recommends that you clear out the clutter from the kitchen so it becomes a working environment.

It is as it says on the front of the book, meals in 30 minutes. I found the approach a little disconcerting as the approach is for an entire meal, not an individual dish and that is the structure of each meal, you are jumping from one dish to another in a very strict sequence. I guess I would have been more comfortable had I also watched the associated TV tie-in on Channel 4, but why the odd broadcast time of 5-30pm!

Each meal how to is highly structured and it is important you strictly follow the structure. Along the way lots of hints and tips to make you a better cook and to enable you to turn out sumptuous meals.

There are 50 meals in Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, 40 of which will be shown on the associated Channel 4 TV series. These are being shown in monthly blocks. The first month was shown before Christmas, more in the New Year. Meals for which there is an associated video are marked in the book.

Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals is the fastest selling non-fiction book ever! It sold 735,000 copies in 10 weeks! For a nation that does not cook, this is all the more amazing, though having said that, cook books are always at the top of the non-fiction list. Maybe it is the appeal of being able to cook an entire meal within 30 minutes.

Delia Smith’s How To Cook (Book 1) is the best-selling cookbook of all time, with more than a million copies sold!

For my lovely friend Sian. Merry Christmas.

Also see

Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals breaks sales record

Jamie’s recipe for quick sales: Latest book, 30-Minute Meals is fastest selling nonfiction work ever

Jamie Oliver Cooks Up £100m In Book Sales

Jamie’s Dinners

Jamie’s Italy

Cook with Jamie