Community engagement and anti poverty work

A joy we can be sure of.

JoyThere is something about the opening to the nativity story in Luke 1 which leaves me a bit bemused. Elizabeth and Zechariah have longed to have a child of their own for many, many years. But no child has ever appeared and it seems that the time has run out.
One day, a glorious angel appears to Zechariah and announces that not only will they have a child, but they will have a top of the range boy child! (As the passage goes on, the angel seems to get more excited with each added feature.) This alpha male will be the answer to their every prayer!.. read more

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LAUDATO SI’

Paul ChapmanWhen  Pope Francis  released his new encyclical letter, LAUDATO SI’: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON  HOME, there was quite a stir, but since then I’ve heard nothing,  not even when climate change is discussed.  Perhaps the encyclical is too radical for people to deal with.

From the beginning, Pope Francis unites his care for the environment  with an unwavering commitment to overcoming poverty. There should be no disconnect between our faith and our efforts to overcome poverty and the abuse of the natural world – two evils that are really one.   He continues that an ecological approach always becomes a social approach.  We are part of the natural world and not superior to it.  Some people feel free to use and abuse it as if it belonged to them... read more

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Blessed are you who are poor

Paul - new photoIt’s little wonder that the people of Israel, whose nation had been defeated, occupied or exiled  for hundreds of years,  should long for an all-powerful God which would protect the people.

However, unexpectedly, in Jesus, God became manifest not as a king, or a priest, or a sage, but as a humble, poor peasant whose primary concern was with the poor of the land.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.  We want God to solve our problems.   But if Jesus is truly the manifestation of God on earth,  the way he lived and his words that are recorded in the Gospels represent not a mighty arm, but a caring heart, especially for those who fall outside the margins of establishment society—the outcasts, outsiders, sinners, lost sheep, lost coins, lost and prodigal sons, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, the lame, the possessed and the children... read more

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Zohara Simmons

Paul ChapmanZohara Simmons was raised in a pious church-going family in Tennessee in the United States.  When she was leaving home for college in Atlanta, Georgia, her family warned here not to get involved in the Civil Rights movement.  “That’s nothing but trouble, and you might lose your scholarship,” they warned.   Zohara’s grandmother advised her to immediately get involved in a church where she would be safe from such troubles.
She did just that.  She joined the church right near her dormitory, a Baptist church pastured by the Rev... read more

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Multiple overwhelmings

I got caught up in the Channel 4 mini series ‘Top Boy’. I know the estate in Hackney where the plot unfurls. We get glimpses of two young lads, neither of them destined to be ‘top boy’ in the drug dealers’ world. One of the lads has a drawn ‘peeked’ face that speaks of poverty. He lives for his staffie, whom one day he finds ‘strung up’ by those aspiring to be ‘top boy’ because he failed to deliver on one of his tasks... read more

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Christmas and beyond

Paul ChapmanThe beautiful Christmas stories, while undoubtedly apocryphal, illuminate some of the basic truths about Jesus.  He was born of poor parents in oppressed and marginal circumstances; yet, he was honored by both poor shepherds and established wise men alike.

The story also reveals that Jesus was born in a troubled and violent land: The Roman Emperor Augustus required that all the world must register, presumably to be taxed by the Roman occupiers. Mary’s Magnificat reveals the injustice of the time and she dreams of a total transformation, in which, by God’s strength, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the rich are impoverished, the whole social order is overturned... read more

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It’s better to light a candle……

candle “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” The ancient Chinese proverb has a lot to say to us in the long nights and dark days of this Advent season. And it’s a choice that those of us who live in what are sometimes labelled ‘priority areas’ know only too well: sitting often, alone or with our friends and neighbours, in situations that feel a lot like Psalm 23’s ‘valley of the shadow of death’, sometimes ‘cursing the darkness’ feels like all we can do; but often, if we have the strength and enough hope, we try to work out what we can do together to ‘light a candle’ or two... read more

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People change things

The Church of Scotland and Faith in Community Scotland have recently made submissions to the Smith Commission. The Smith Commission has been given the task of getting agreement on the specifics of the new powers that will come to Scotland following September’s Independence Referendum.

At the heart of both submissions lies a plea: “Let’s make our democracy better, stronger and much more engaging.”

Close PopeAt the Global Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis committed the Catholic Church to walk alongside the poor in their struggle for justice... read more

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The heart of the Gospel.

Pope1Just where do you start on a day when you have shaken hands with the Pope, listened to the President of Bolivia, attended Mass in St Peter’s Basilica and listened to the prophetic cries for justice from slum dwellers and waste-pickers from the global south?

There is only one place to begin – with the meeting with Pope Francis. This is one extra-ordinary man. He talked plainly about the fundamental injustices of capitalism, a system where love of money has replaced love of human beings at the heart of the economy... read more

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Small is beautiful.

Paul ChapmanI’ve been revisiting the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. “God has chosen things low and contemptible, mere nothings to overthrow the existing order“ (v.28). This verse really came to life for me in 1963 when the lowliest of the lowly – poor black children in the segregated south were demonstrating for the overthrow of apartheid and freedom for all God’s children. And indeed, the old order of segregation was overthrown.

From Mary’s hymn of praise on hearing that she will bear a son – ‘he has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly’ – to the crucifixion itself, it is the ‘least of these’ who are exalted in the New Testament... read more

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