In my current professional guise, I get to work with quite a few charities, helping them with strategy, governance, evaluating their impact and sometimes getting stuck in as a frontline volunteer myself. Over the last year, I’ve worked with charities in areas as diverse as foodbanks, community gardens, science education in schools, prisoner rehabilitation, homelessness and mental wellbeing.
It would be easy to get downbeat about what is wrong with our society, that so many people have so many needs. But it’s also amazing and uplifting to see the passion and commitment of the various volunteers and staff alike, in their determination to start putting things right.
A large part of “what works well” in nearly every area I’ve looked at is actually about rebuilding a sense of local community. Academic studies on “happiness” tell us that it is often the loss of hope and of social connections that makes people’s lives more miserable. And that rebuilding a real sense of community, and rebuilding faith – both in other people, and religious faith – will do just as much to improve people’s happiness as an increase in income.
Which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Jesus didn’t worry about his income, he trusted in the people around him that all that he needed would be provided. The early apostles set aside special ministry for those caring in the community (Acts 6).
As we have used the vacancy as time for a reflection, we have become clearer that our church is more a serving church than an overtly evangelistic one. We strongly believe in quiet but persistent demonstration by action of our faith and fellowship, to the each other and the wider community.
Gifts of the spirit come in many forms. If we’re right that this is ours, then I say “Amen” to that.