THIS summer, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, gave an eloquent and hard-hitting address to the New Wine conference. The subject of his address was the Church and the poor.
In it he accused the Church of being “complicit in the abandonment of the poor” (News, 11 August), and its clergy of being reluctant to leave their middle-class enclaves with trendy coffee shops and artisanal bakers.
During his talk, he highlighted what he saw as signs of hope and examples of good practice. One sign of hope was the publication of this book (News, 4 August), which he mentioned by name. It is easy to see why Bishop North was so enthusiastic: it is essentially a book-length treatment of key themes in his talk.
The joint authors of A Church for the Poor are leading lights in Jubilee+ (pronounced Jubilee Plus). Originally an initiative of the New Frontiers churches, Jubilee+ is now an interdenominational group carrying out research and lobbying on issues of poverty, besides resourcing UK churches to work alongside the poor.
Part One sets the scene with an overview of poverty in the UK today, a biblical survey, and snapshots from church history. It also includes helpful reflections on why we should address UK poverty when the problems are so much greater in other parts of the world.
Part Two moves on to practicalities to be considered if the Church is to re-engage with the disenfranchised on our own doorstep. These include strategy, resources, and the culture of our churches, as well as a clear-sighted look at the risk of burnout. Also included is a review of recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church’s mission to the poor and pioneering Evangelical forms of outreach around the UK.
Clearly written and factual, personal but unsentimental, this would be an excellent resource for churches of all traditions which wish to rediscover what it means to proclaim “good news to the poor” in their own community. Highly recommended.
The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for the Church Army and author of the Faith Pictures evangelism course.
A Church for the Poor: Transforming the Church to reach the poor in Britain today
Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams
David C. Cook £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9