Creating a church accessible to the poor
This blog was originally published by Hope into Action here
Ed Walker gave me [Martin Charlesworth] a challenging seminar title: How to create a church accessible to the poor. This is such an important question and one that will keep arising though the work of Hope into Action as tenants start to pursue a spiritual journey of faith and seek to link up with nearby churches. I’ve given a lot of thought to this question and seen many attempts to make churches accessible to poorer people.
How do we create Accessible Church?
In the seminar I discussed the important question of church culture. Every church has its central culture which determines how we relate to one another and how we conduct public meetings. Not many church leaders sit down and think much about their church culture. However, as the diversity of your church grows, you realise the need to create different ways of doing things. In fact, churches should reflect a number of sub-cultures in the way they function.
Alongside this, people who have suffered with poverty, long-term unemployment, family breakdown, addiction or homelessness need to be shown respect and love as they become part of church communities. Emilie Reading, who shared the seminar with me, gave eloquent testimony of the importance of this respect and love. She used her own story to tell how relationship with church helped her come out of addiction, prostitution and homelessness. You can see her blog post here.
Making churches accessible to the poor requires clear thinking and action by church leaders. It also involves church members committed specifically to pastoral responsibility. It’s essential that people already in the community help people from poorer backgrounds find a place in the church.
It was a great pleasure to join the Hope into Action team for the annual conference in Peterborough in March. I have been linked to Hope into Action for a few years and Ed has run a stand at several conferences run by the organisation I lead – Jubilee+ (visit us here). In fact, Matt Lambert, who now heads up the Hope into Action partnership in the Black Country first met Ed at a Jubilee+ conference! These issues are discussed more fully in the book I co-authored with Natalie Williams entitled A Church for the Poor. Do check it out.