One of the sponsors of this year’s National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast , the Trussell Trust, writes about how they are bringing hope during the coronavirus pandemic.
Love is a word that is used about as sparingly in politics as it is liberally in music.
Perhaps this is as it should be. Politics at its best is concerned with serving the common good, weighing and developing solutions, stewarding resources in the public interest; music very often seeks resonance with our individual experiences, tastes and emotions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s description of the NHS as ‘powered by love’ following his recovery from coronavirus was notable in its departure from this pattern. His tribute conveyed something out-of-the ordinary, reflecting an insight derived not from briefings or expert analysis, but through relationship and direct personal experience.
Churches typically have more in common with music than politics in this respect. Love is a widely used word in Christian contexts, with good reason: the greatest commandments of the Christian faith have to do with love for God and for other people.
One expression of love is kindness, and this is something we have seen an abundance of during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trussell Trust supports a network of over 1200 food bank centres across the UK. Sadly, in April this year we saw an 89% increase in need for emergency food parcels compared to the same period last year.
It is people’s kindness that has made it possible to meet this need. Wherever circumstances have permitted, our regular volunteers and staff have continued to give of their time and energies to keep food banks running. Churches, charities and businesses have generously supplied food donations, additional volunteers, transport and financial support, enabling our network to respond to the added challenges that this season has brought.
This kindness has made a big difference. It has prevented families and individuals from going hungry when they otherwise couldn’t afford to eat. It has shown people that someone cares, even though their circumstances may be incredibly difficult. We are deeply grateful for the generosity that has made this happen.
But, even in a time of crisis such as this, it shouldn’t be this way. Prior to coronavirus, we were already seeing significant year-on-year increases in the number of households needing to turn to food banks for emergency help. This isn’t right.
To address this growing problem of acute poverty in the UK, we may need to look at love in a different light.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: ‘Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.’
Seeing people released from the grip of poverty means transforming the structures of our society so that they better reflect the principles of justice and compassion. It requires us to ask questions about how our economy and our housing market work, how our benefits system supports us when we need it, and how employment conditions and wages promote or inhibit people’s flourishing.
So while the language of love might be more prevalent in the gathered activities of local churches than it is in the political sphere, its expression in our public life – through influencing, campaigning, research, debate and policy-making activities – is of utmost importance if we are to turn the tide on acute poverty in our communities.
The Trussell Trust are delighted to be sponsoring the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast this year and we know that for many of those participating, it is a commitment to seeing justice and compassion more fully expressed in our society that inspires and shapes their work.
The months ahead look difficult and uncertain for many people. We are committed to supporting our food bank network for as long as it is needed. We are also committed, however, to a vision of a UK in which food banks are no longer needed, and we look forward to continuing to work with political representatives across all parties, as well as with churches, communities and other partners, to bring about this goal.
To find out more about the Trussell Trust’s work and ways that local churches can get involved visit: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/church-support/
The National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast 2020 Online will be livestreamed at 8.30am-9.00am on Tuesday 30 June. To attend, please register via Eventbrite.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, will be a contributor to the Bible Society webinar ‘Mission During Lockdown and Beyond’, which will be livestreamed at 10.00am on Tuesday 30 June after the main Prayer Breakfast.