- Energising the imagination in our communities. Many of whom only see a future of debt, unemployment and hopelessness. It is the ‘job of people of faith’ to tell people there is an alternative – the promise of newness that is in our God.
- We must name the fallenness in our society. We can’t be silent about what is happening. (Ezekiel 33) e.g.The Trust budget is being cut by 50% - we have to speak out about the results of that! We need to recover our voices as churches to speak for people.
- We need to live ‘as if…’the kingdom has already come among us. We need to start living out the values!
This is what the Lord Almighty says; ‘It may seem impossible to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem impossible to me?' declares the Lord Almighty.”
Glenn asked us to get into threes and say what we would do with a derelict piece of land he showed us a photo of ‘if the kingdom had already come among us’. Most groups thought of a car-free area, with benches for the elderly and parents, a playground for children, a tea hut, trees and plants… Glenn later revealed this derelict land was now the Skainos Centre on the lower Newtownards Road, a centre for that East Belfast community where even the flower beds are planted with vegetables local people can come and dig up to use!
Glenn pointed out, as Chair of BICCI, Derek Cummings, did later: It is the responsibility of those who have to reach out to the poor, not the other way round. But what a wonderful return we get with ‘the economics of the kingdom’: give a glass of water to those in need and in return God gives us His kingdom! (Matt 25: 31-46, the sheep and the goats) “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Together, with God’s help, we can make a difference! Asserted speaker after speaker at the 2nd BICCI Conference. ‘God has blessed us abundantly!!’
“When Christians care for each other and for the deprived, Jesus Christ becomes more visibly attractive!” (John Stott)
40 churches are working together. 100 volunteers regularly sort out the generous donations from local church goers. Volunteers have delivered 1,500 food parcels to people referred to them by Social Services, YMCA, Christians Against Poverty, CHAD (Christians Helping to Avoid Debt) and others. A simple card inside the parcel tells them it comes with God’s love.
Last Christmas Day 15 volunteers (led by Helen Sloan and Gwen Patterson) organised a Christmas Dinner and entertainment for vulnerable people and plans are already underway for this year. Local businesses were very generous in their donations for this.
A Community Support Panel of male and female business people and professionals has also been set up to advise, inform, mentor, train and support local people seeking to set up their own small businesses.
- there has been a 15% increase in homelessness
- 60% of children living in poverty have unemployed parents
- NI has the lowest number of people applying for the Social Fund (a poor up-take of benefits they are entitled to)
- Many are in debt and feel hopeless about the future as a result
- Most people have experienced a decrease in their income for the last 3 years of recession
- Welfare reform is going through the Assembly and will probably become law in Spring 2014
- In 21% of homes no one works
- NI has the highest percentage of sick, disabled and carers
- The ‘bedroom tax’ is soon to be introduced in NI. Where it is already in operation in Britain 1 in 3 are already in rent arrears
- ‘Personal Independence payments’ are being introduced, instead of DLA. The number getting this benefit will be cut.
Proverbs 21:13 says: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
Derek Cummings summed up by saying: we need to re-Jesus the church. He said he was nearly 80 and had been an elder for 50 years but it was only in retirement God had spoken to him about this and it had knocked him sideways. ‘I don’t know how we have missed it!’ he asserted.
Glenn Jordan also said: “We have to begin in our own local streets. This is the Word made flesh!”