Banks of Grace

This morning I'm off to a meeting with mixed feelings... It breaks my heart that I have to go to it at all, but it is  also a wee ray of hope against a fairly bleak background. The background is created by an economic environment where people are facing mounting debts and are facing the choice of feeding or clothing their families, or heating their homes, and where small charities that have been seeking to help such people, such as our own Dundonald Family and Community Initiative, are having to fold due to lack of sustainable funding. So much for the BIG society...
The ray of hope comes in the form of community food pantries... I first came across such ventures in the US on various fact-finding tours including one 5 years ago with a group of church leaders and civil servants under the auspices of CCWA, where we visited programmes in Pittsburgh and Washington DC. Many of us were impressed with what we saw but roundly dismissed the need for such ventures in the UK with our much vaunted Welfare State... Then came the credit crunch and quickly the need became apparent. Within 5 weeks of our return from the US we had been approached by 2 families for basic necessities... AND we were approached by Alan Carson from Belfast Storehouse, a ministry of the Belfast Vineyard Church, to see if we would be willing to partner with them as a collection and distribution point. We quickly said yes, and from that time on we have worked very effectively together.
About 2 months ago, just after we took the decision to close DFCI, and I was fretting on where the families we support would turn in extremis in future, I picked up on a proposal for a local food pantries, and very quickly a number of churches and other community bodies came together to look at the process for establishing such a venture. NEVER has any community venture received such comprehensive support across local congregations, or indeed within our own congregation. People really have captured the vision for it. After looking at a couple of options it seems as if we will probably be following the Trussell Trust model of Foodbank promoted in this video, but we will remain indebted to Belfast Storehouse for their partnership with us over the past 4-5 years, and wish them well in their continued ministry.

I don't like the title "Foodbank" however... especially against a background of banks that are hesitant to lend and where they do they make sure they get back what they lend with interest... Foodbanks  by contrast expect nothing back... they are ministries of grace... as are the various seasonal ventures where food hampers and toys are given to brighten up the Christmas of the poorer members of our community.

It's a shame, however, that such ventures are needed at all...



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