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Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Church response to the recession

David Bell
David Ball
for The Politics Show East

The Church of England General Synod is preparing for a special debate next week on the causes and the impact of the recession. Many parishes have seen a big increase in people looking for help.

Hostilities between church and state look set to break out again, 30 years after the Faith in the Cities initiative.

Here is the view of David Ball, from the Chaplaincy to People at Work, based in Cambridge.

Already churches are including the growing levels of unemployment in their weekly and daily prayers.

The subject is mentioned in sermons.

Ironically, last week's reading from Luke 2 about the Presentation of Christ in the Temple had more to do with Mary and her preparation for a difficult time ahead than about the Christ child.

David Ball
Soon every one of us will know a friend, relative or neighbour who's life will be devastated by the impact of the recession.
David Ball

Simeon clearly implied that she was in for a heart-wrenching, if not heart-breaking time in the future.

He was not wrong, as history reveals.

I certainly made the point in my sermons last Sunday that it would not be long, even in our relatively stable Anglia region, when every one of us would know a friend, relative or neighbour who's life would be devastated by the impact of the recession.

It might be the loss of employment, the lack of income from savings or even the total loss of savings altogether.

So what are we to do?

We need to be vigilant

Churches are well placed both geographically and socially, in the communities where they exist, to get to know fairly quickly who and how local people have been affected.

Their response is critically important.

A great deal more emphasis on pastoral care and support by both lay and ordained members of churches needs to be put into action; ready to visit, listen, advise and help those badly affected.

The age of proclamation has gone.

Street Pastors
It is out on the street that the Pastors can really make a difference

The new imperative for churches of all dominations, is to engage in incarnational ministry; the kind of ministry established by Christ Himself.

By going to where the people are, in the market places, the workplace, hospitals, schools etc; church members will find plenty of individuals in need of support and help.

Church members need to be ready and of course, willing to serve in a practical way, those in the communities in greatest need.

It never fails to amaze me that our congregations are packed with fully trained teachers, nurses, lawyers, managers, doctors, policemen, dentists, to name a few, whose experience and training is never called upon by the church hierarchy to advise and support those in need.

Street Pastors
It is often a listening ear that is required

Maybe a register of members' areas of expertise could be held by the church secretary and directed to where it might be most needed at critical times.

Such practical help might even encourage those helped to become full-time members of the local church.

If we listen, rather than talk, or worse still, preach; visit rather than expecting people to come to the church building; give of our time as well as resources; be willing to give hospitality, we may well make all the difference in the world in these difficult times.

The Politics Show with Jon Sopel and Etholle George on Sunday at 1200 GMT on BBC One.

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