Turn on the news at night and you’ll be faced with a wall of sorrow. As the cost of living crisis continues, people are going without food and more households are being pulled into debt. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 14.5 million people are currently in poverty in the UK. This is 22% of the UK population, equivalent to 15 people on an average double-decker bus being in a financially vulnerable position.
This strain not only affects people’s bank balances but also impacts their mental well-being. Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a charity that provides free debt help and local community groups in partnership with churches across the UK, found that 36% of our clients had attempted or considered suicide as a way out of debt before seeking help. This is the devastating reality in which we’re living.
Behind every statistic is a person who is being pulled under by the pressures of poverty. These are people like Syd. As Syd battled depression and physical illness, he became increasingly isolated. Lengthy stays in the hospital and the loss of his mother dragged him into the claws of debt. His physical illness halted his semi-professional cricket career. Mental ill-health made the smallest task a burden too great to bear. Circumstances beyond his control were walling him away from the world, kept company only by the echoes of a faint song of despair. As you read this, it’s okay to feel devastated by the harsh realities people are being pulled into.
So what do we do?
First, it’s important to recognise that it’s okay to lament. As Christians, we can turn to God and offer up our prayers of sorrow, solidarity and sympathy. Next, we must move to a place of hope.
There is support being offered which is providing light to people in the darkest of times. It’s uplifting to see the way congregations around the UK are coming together to provide practical initiatives to help those who are struggling in their communities. Over 2,000 churches in the UK run at least one CAP service such as free Debt Centres, community group services, and courses delivering money education. Each offers free, practical and non-judgmental advice and support for anyone who needs it. It’s wonderful to see that the Church has once again stepped up in this way and is helping to transform the lives of those caught in the storm of this cost of living crisis.
Syd made that first phone call for help to CAP and was visited by a member of Maidenhead’s River Church and the CAP Debt Centre Manager, Andrew. Syd was given the holistic, practical and emotional support he needed.He became part of the local church community. Through love and faithfulness, Syd found not only the solutions to his debt problems, but the love of God. Having gone through a Debt Relief Order (DRO) with the help of CAP, he became debt free. He’s found lifelong friendships in his church and is now flourishing. Syd’s heart, which was once heavy with sorrow, has been filled with faith and purpose.
Although the provision of support is valuable to help transform lives, CAP has a vision to see an end to UK poverty where everyone experiences equal dignity, freedom and opportunity. To reach this goal there will also need to be changes to wider systems and structures. As Christians, we know that we cannot achieve this alone. We need to come together practically, and also in prayer.
CAP Sunday 2022
To help us all journey from lament to hope, CAP is offering the opportunity for us to come together and pray for those who are struggling during this cost of living crisis through a CAP Sunday service. On Sunday 16 October 2022, churches from different denominations will be uniting in a collective song of prayer about the current situation, and together journey from lament to hope. CAP is welcoming any church to get involved. All the free resources that you need can be found on CAP’s website alongside information on how to book a free guest speaker for your church.
Christians Against Poverty is a Body in Association with Churches Together in England.