North East Christians are calling for an end to “political short-termism” and urge the next Government to take issues like homelessness and food poverty seriously.
A new poll by Church Action on Poverty also reveals practising Christians are frustrated by church leaders’ failure to challenge politicians.
The poll, carried out by ComRes, highlights a deep dissatisfaction with Government among the region’s congregations.
- Eight in ten (82%) Christians would vote for a party with a positive long-term vision for society;
- Nine in ten (90%) think politicians are more interested in short-term political concerns;
- 74% believe churches and church leaders don’t talk enough in public about issues like food poverty, homelessness and tax avoidance;
- Four in five (85%) say that churches and church leaders do not effectively challenge politicians to communicate a long-term positive vision for society.
Minister Simon Lawton, of Newcastle’s Elim Pentecostal Church, said:
“I’m not at all surprised by the results of this survey. I would imagine that most people would agree with its findings.
“I believe people long for a society where compassion, justice and love and respect for your fellow man is central.
“Naturally we all have a part to play in this. The coming election is an opportunity for all of us, especially Christians, to host hustings and interview prospective candidates in order to make an informed decision.
“We can make a difference and we have a responsibility to make our vote count locally.”
The charity Churches Together is now calling on church-goers to challenge the region’s would-be MPs during hustings it will organise in the run-up to the General Election to coincide with its Vision 2020 of the Good Society report.
It comes ahead of Church Action on Poverty Sunday, this weekend as the charity calls for politicians to put forward a vision for a better society and to reject negative campaigning.
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said:
“As the Bible says ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’
“Christians are crying out for politicians to share a positive long-term vision for society – but politicians and political parties are currently failing to do so.
“But today’s poll is also a challenge to the churches to speak publicly about our own vision of a good society.
“By organising local hustings events, we can challenge those who want to represent us in Parliament to go beyond the usual political short-termism and engage in a positive debate about the kind of society they – and we – want to live in by the year 2020.”
Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together, added:
“The emphasis church-goers so often want is a shared vision of the Common Good. How do we build long-term sustainable communities where justice and compassion are at the centre of all that we do?
“It is having a vision for those who are on the margins and feel that there is no one there for them.
“How do we build local communities where people of faith and those of no faith can share common values and live in harmony, where everyone has a proper sense of belonging?
“Taking part in the democratic process is of fundamental importance to being a good citizen. The church hustings allow people to come together and make informed decisions which are central to their lives and prosperity.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Feb 2015
Foodbank organisers have opened what is believed to be Newcastle’s first free clothes shop.
Set up in a church in Heaton, Newcastle, the Clothes Store has a stockroom full of warm winter coats, baby and children’s clothes and mens and womens outfits.
After the success of the East End Foodbank, which helps around 70 people a week, religious leaders have said people in the community are still in need and have now turned their attention to making sure people have enough warm clothes to get them through the winter.
> the success of the East End Foodbank – you might think that the very need for a foodbank is very much a lack of success.
Vikki Gosling from Walker, said:
“I have come to the church before to get two winter coats for my kids after a teacher at school mentioned it. A lot of people say they would dare, and ask how can you ‘embarass yourself’ but if it’s for your kids you’ll do it.”
The region’s first clothes bank, mirroring the way a foodbank runs, was set up in Durham City in October.
Senior pastor Julia Lawton, of the Elim Pentecostal Church on Heaton Road, said she was really keen to set up the store to help people in a time of crisis after running a successful ‘coats for kids’ scheme locally.
“For the clothes store we are trusting people. They will get a voucher and they will be allowed three items per person. If someone says they have a family of six people, then we would need to meet all six people.
“Some people don’t always qualify for things like the foodbank or official help, but they might be out of work. I’ve got one man whose has got two jobs and is struggling to make ends meet. We gave him a coat for his one year old son, and a whole sack of toys because he couldn’t afford them himself.
“There’s no need for anyone to be embarrassed. Most people at some point in their lives need help. It might not always need to be financial.”
The clothes are all of good quality and have been donated by church members and the local community and have been washed before going on display.
A toybank is also being set up after a local man put out an appeal on Facebook and collected dozens of second hand toys in good condition from people living in Heaton and Byker.
Vikki, who has had her benefits sanctioned with just weeks until Christmas, was able to pick up some gifts for her two young children.
“They will be absolutely buzzing to see what they’ve got,” said Vikki, who said she has struggled to find a job.
“When they told me what they wanted this year, I had to just say ‘you know you won’t get all that’. In the past they have asked a lot for presents at Christmas, but they know now that I just can’t afford it.
“I’ll be back with my own donation though, I’ll bring my size 8 clothes down from before I had my children to see if anyone else can use them.”
The Clothes Store will run on the third Thursday of every month between 2.30pm and 4.30pm at Elim Pentecostal Church in the former Heaton bingo hall on Heaton Road. The first one however opens today to give people a chance to have a look before Christmas.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 10 Dec 2014