All of us would say we want to see an end to poverty. None of us is happy seeing our neighbours, our fellow citizens, suffering. Made in the image and likeness of God, all human beings surely deserve to live with dignity, agency and power over our own lives.
So what are we as Christians doing to challenge and put an end to poverty in the UK? How can we move from reacting to crises to finding long-term solutions?
Those are the questions that led to Church Action on Poverty being launched, 40 years ago this month. Our founding members knew it was not enough to keep pulling people out of the river, nor simply to pray and hope for change. They knew that we had to go upstream, find what was sweeping people into poverty in the first place, and act accordingly. What’s more, they knew it was no good to speak for people in poverty. Our challenge is to work alongside people with firsthand experience of poverty and to enable them to speak for themselves.
To mark our 40th anniversary, we have published Dignity, Agency, Power, an anthology of poetry, prayers and prose, looking back on often-pioneering work, and with immense gratitude for countless activists, supporters and partners that have brought about change in the lives of households, communities and at a national level. We can look back proudly on major successes in tackling high-cost lending, campaigning for the Living Wage, in convening the powerful End Hunger UK campaign which put food poverty and hunger firmly on the national agenda.
True to this vision, this year we are launching a new Speaking Truth To Power programme, which will support people with experience of poverty to press effectively for meaningful change. Our Your Local Pantry network has enabled churches and community partners to open member-run food hubs in 75 neighbourhoods across the UK. These are improving access to good food and building dignity, choice and hope for over 15,000 households. Through a new partnership with the Cooperative, we are hoping to grow this to over 200 Local Pantries by 2025. And our Church On The Margins programme works alongside a range of partner churches and denominations to put into practice the Gospel priority for the poorest and most marginalised in society.
As the cost of living crisis deepens, the need for Church Action on Poverty, and for a social movement committed to building dignity, agency and power with people and communities struggling to make ends meet has never been greater. Join us in this challenging and exciting task!
Photo credit: Church Action on Poverty from the Pilgrimage on the Margins week on Iona in July 2022, which included a 40th anniversary service held at Iona Abbey.