Telling stories of Faith into action

Over Lent, 40 ordinary disciples across the Diocese tell their stories of how following Jesus has led them to action.

Serving communities; challenging injustice; loving their neighbour.

Each day we’ll tell a new story here, and on Instagram Facebook,and Twitter.

Day 10: Wayne’s Story

“I heard a knock and tentatively opened the door and God has done something amazing with that”.

Wayne is a volunteer debt adviser for Crosslight Twickenham. He helped gather the team in St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham seven years ago.

“We meet with people who are struggling with multiple debts, facing enforcement actions through courts, bailiffs, even eviction. We come alongside them and work out strategies to help lift them out of debt”.

The team is also trained to support clients by acting as an intermediary with creditors which provides respite from feeling constantly harassed.

“It’s about going on a journey with people and helping them see there is light at the end of the tunnel”.

Wayne and the other Crosslight volunteers offer this free service to everyone because they want people to experience something of God’s unconditional love.

For them, it’s important that people who use their services feel they are not forgotten and know they are important in God’s eyes.

“I feel this is something God has put on my heart quite explicitly”.

Before Wayne became a debt adviser at Crosslight, a friend asked him to consider a similar opportunity, but he said no.

A short time later, he found himself in a conversation with a small group at St Stephen’s about offering debt advice, and he was reminded of the seed that God sowed through his friend.

“I think God heard my internal dialogue when I said this is not for me and two years later, he put in place the structure needed to overcome my objections”.

Wayne received training and mentoring by an experienced debt adviser through Crosslight, giving him the structure and experience he needed.

“God has taught me so much about compassion for people and not being judgemental.

By offering a little bit of my time he has actually shown me so much about his heart for people”.

For more information about Crosslight Advice, and their work partnering with churches to offer free money advice to those struggling, click here

Day 9: Jackie’s Story

“Social justice issues have always been a big part of my faith.”

Jackie’s church, Christ the Saviour in Ealing, is a member institution of West London Citizens – a chapter of Citizens UK.

Wanting to put her faith in Jesus into action, Jackie and her team engaged in a listening exercise to identify the pressing needs in their area.

“It gave me the opportunity as a person of faith to go out into the community and build those relationships but also put my own life into perspective.”

Through engaging in these one-to-one discussions, they heard numerous stories of challenges related to housing in their borough – from street homelessness to emergency accommodation, sofa surfing to rogue landlords.

They forged links with other faith institutions to collectively run a housing campaign.

An assembly attended by 200 people resulted in their asks to help tackle some of the housing issues being included in the local political party manifestos, and the council are now committed to working in partnership with West London Citizens on these issues.

“We have a reciprocal relationship with key influencers – those that can effect the changes we want.

We generate potential solutions to the issues identified, and we hold them to account on those they agree with.”

Together with Ealing Council, they have identified a piece of land to build affordable housing on - homes that are affordable to buy and remain affordable to buy in perpetuity – in collaboration with London Community Land Trust.

Other positive outcomes include the introduction of Renters Rights workshops providing advice on dealing with rogue landlords; the increase of Selective Landlord Licensing in the Borough; and a commitment to 50% affordable housing requirement in all new building developments in the borough on public land.

Jackie has found participating in Citizens UK campaigns deeply rewarding because they target policy change, resulting in a long-lasting impact.

“We can influence those in power to make the changes that are needed. We are giving people a voice and people’s stories are at the heart of everything we campaign for when it comes to effecting change.”

Day 8: Father Ben’s Story

“When I moved into the vicarage, I thought: right, I must do this!”

Ben takes part in “Clergy Hosting” a scheme run in partnership with Housing Justice, providing a room in his house for asylum seekers.

When he made the decision to become a priest, he knew that he wanted to use the space in his vicarage to help house people.

Over the last three years he has housed two people who were waiting for their asylum claims to be processed.

With no recourse to public funds and no rights to work, the “Clergy Hosting” scheme, through Housing Justice, has seen 16 clergy across the diocese welcome in people going through an extremely difficult season.

For Ben, his Christian faith is a clear imperative to help people.

“I’m always reminded of when Jesus said: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food,… naked and you clothed me’ (Mat 25:35-36).

Both my guests have previously been homeless and moved through the night shelter system.

Enabling them to move into a proper house where they would have some independence, and autonomy, feels like what I should be doing with all that I have been given”.

Best of all, Ben has been able to build friendships with his guests.

“There’s lots of time to have dinner together.

I’ve been introduced to Eritrean cuisine, which is lovely. There’s this fluffy pancake called Injera which is just delicious!”

If you have a spare room (whether you are clergy or not), and think this may be something you could do, for a short or longer time, please get in touch!

Day 7: Alex’s Story

“I just really like cooking and baking and sharing that with people because I recognise it is probably not wise to eat a whole cake by myself!”

When Alex first had her son two years ago, she began attending a group for older retired people in her community,

“I thought it was excellent as a new mum to be fed tea and cake and have loads of epic friendships with this group! They loved me and my son”.

During the first lockdown, Alex would bake cakes at home and then take them round to the doorsteps of her friends from the older people’s group.

“I knew that some of them were struggling to connect with things particularly online because that wasn’t really their world”.

For Alex, visiting her friends with her son has been a highlight for her during lockdown.

“It feels like interacting with extended grandparents and that’s really joyful”.

Alex’s faith motivates her to connect with people and help them feel that they belong, especially in this season where they may feel very isolated.

Day 6: Chris’s Story

“I’d love for the culture of the Church to be helping people avoid getting into debt with energy providers and living more sustainably”.

Chris is the co-chair of Fair Energy UK and works as part of a team to help equip different churches and communities to encourage their members to switch to cheaper, fairer and greener energy suppliers.

Beginning with a conversation after church with a community organiser from Citizens UK, about how he can fight against climate change, Chris found that there was a huge overlap with unfair energy pricing. From this passion, he and a few others set up the Fair Energy Campaign team at their church, St Johns Hoxton.

“It is massively inspiring to see that I am not alone and there are other people who care this much”.

Chris also set up a team at his university, King’s College London, where staff and students have joined to help him with the campaign.

“I was nervous beforehand about speaking to people about it, but I was blown away by the number of people coming to meetings. It really gives me motivation to keep going”.

Throughout this campaign, Chris has felt God teaching him that fighting for justice is an important aspect of following Jesus.

“I really believe that the Bible teaches us to have a good relationship with the planet. We should be looking after the planet in a way that looks after people.

Through this campaign I have seen that the energy industry is failing on both of those accounts.”

The exploitation of the poorest people across the world and in the UK by the energy industry motivates Chris to work alongside communities to seek justice.

For more information about the Fair Energy Campaign, they tweet @fairenergyUK and their website is here.

Chris has written a blog for Compassionate Communities about how Energy Switch Days and the fair energy campaign has impacted their church.

Day 5: Viv’s Story

“I believe God has given me a real heart for the homeless.”

Viv is the Community Pastor at St Barnabas Church. She works to support homeless and vulnerable adults.

Over the last 10 years, Viv has lived out her role through various projects in her local parish and in neighbouring boroughs in London.

Before lockdown in March last year, she ran a community lunch every Sunday, where she and her team would welcome up to 80 adults into the Church building providing them with a hot meal. A shower and clean clothes were supplied when requested.

“Part of this work is not just about feeding people, it is about getting alongside them to comfort and encourage them, blessing them in whatever way we can”.

For Viv, the past year has been incredibly hard.

With the restrictions increasing, Viv was heartbroken knowing that all the services homeless and vulnerable adults normally had access to were shutting.

“I took it to God saying, look I want to keep these services going, I don’t know how to, and I need your help… and He just showed up spectacularly!”

Viv has been able to support her community through offering a takeaway service throughout the pandemic. By putting up a request on Facebook, people responded to her and have been keen to help her serve.

“It is exciting, it is rewarding, it’s funny, but it can also be incredibly sad at times.

I always get back so much more than what I have put in, and consider it such a privilege to serve in this way.”

Day 4: Steve’s Story

“I didn’t know I was going to be a campaigner at first; I had no idea”.

Last year, Steve was given a £1.3 million cladding bill.

After receiving this bill, he went to speak to his flatmates and neighbours nearby to find out that 63% of them could go bankrupt because they could not afford the bill.

For Steve, this also meant that he wouldn’t be able to practice in his career.

So quickly, so much was being robbed from him because of a flammable cladding that was put on his building.

After hearing more awful stories of how these bills were affecting people, Steve joined a group with his neighbours, where they discovered the catastrophic failures of the builders and launched a campaign on twitter to get the builders to pay them the £1.3 million owed to them.

“I felt God’s need for me to get justice, I prayed all the way through this and that is when I realised: God is really blessing this work”.

After the success of this campaign, Steve felt called to fight more bills, not just locally but nationally. Doors were opened for Steve through twitter and soon he saw his campaign take influence inside the government.

Now he is working with the Church to encourage Bishops and leaders to help him fight for justice.

For Steve, his faith motivates him to keep enduring until the end because of God’s promises to him. The first time he publicly spoke out about the cladding in his building in an article, he was threatened with legal action and told to make edits to his work.

During this stressful time God placed a rainbow directly over his flats.

Steve didn’t know this was happening, it was only once he went on social media after his meeting his timeline was filled with pictures of the perfect rainbow.

“God placed his rainbow directly over my tower, to show me and others He reigns supreme and can offer any protection that may be required”.

Day 3: Folake’s Story

“My ministry is centred on Jesus’ command to serve others.”

Folake works in her local community as a branch leader of the Mothers’ Union at St Olave’s Church, Manor House, and as area Vice President.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35, “When I was hungry you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” have impacted the way she expresses her faith.

Whether as a member of Mothers’ Union or simply as a believer of Jesus Christ she feels called to serve others. Folake’s faith has always led her to not neglect those who have deep needs.

Through this she has been involved in many projects where she has had the opportunity to live this out: one being the Hackney Winter Night Shelter. For over 7 years, Folake organised and coordinated meals for guests as they stayed in the Church.

Every year with the Mothers’ Union at St Olave’s church she also helps present 40 bags containing various items for new mothers facing hardships.

“I believe that these kinds of acts are simple and freely given and freely received”.

DAY 2: STEPHAN & JEANNINE’s Story

“We want to create a home for young people who need it in a time of struggle.

Our motivation is to reflect something of God’s love and care we experienced and show it to others”.

8 years ago, Jeannine and Stephan founded with friends the charity Shelter Community, with the vision to create a home for young adults in which they can flourish and grow in their personal and social skills.

After many years of hard graft, a lot of prayer and support, and the grace of God, their charity house is now ready. It has space for up to seven young people in housing need, where they provide a place to relax, to create and meet new friends.

They are supported by volunteers from three local churches who act as coaches for the young people and help them to reach their goals.

“We believe that we all need a ‘Shelter Community’ in the midst of our life storms and that certain things can be best learnt in a community.

By connecting our creativity, talents and resources, we can become the Shelter Community that protects and transforms lives for good”.

Their brilliant project is outlined here: https://ychlondon.org/

Day 1: Jo’s Story

“The God that I love, and worship, is one that is so deeply rooted in unconditional love, radical justice and liberation from oppression”.

Jo works with asylum seekers and refugees, supporting them emotionally and practically, providing company in what can be a really isolating time.

It’s an area she has always been passionate about. Jo comes from a migrant community, her grandparents are part of the Indian partition, therefore this is very close to her.

The community that Jo supports are predominantly LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, who are from countries of origin where it is not safe to be themselves.

Unfortunately, many still face prejudice and persecution as they navigate through the asylum system. Which is why Jo and the team at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, work to support people as they submit claims but also once their status has been gained.

“It’s that element of: at what point are you validated in your right to be here? It’s not as clear cut as just being a legal situation”.

Jo has always felt very called and connected to this work.

For her, she could not have worship without also having the fight for structural change and support people who are going through it.

She feels blessed to be part of a church community at St James’s Piccadilly who have guided her, in their unshakeable faith and love for people.

Compassionate Communities, part of the Diocese of London, exists to equip, encourage and serve parishes as we reach out compassionately to our neighbours in Jesus’s name.

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