What is it like to live in poverty? What does it feel to be homeless? The Kirk’s General Assembly will be discussing on May 24th specific answers to poverty in a report that showcases innovative congregational projects, as well as the life-stories of people who fight poverty on a daily basis.
Statistics tell us a frightening story; round 950,000 people in Scotland currently live in poverty; this amounts to nineteen percent of the population. Twenty five percent of children living in Scotland live in poverty. However, numbers convey a dry unemotional picture. In order to present a more vivid picture of the effects of poverty on people’s lives, the Church of Scotland jointly sponsored Scotland’s first Poverty Truth Commission in March 2009. The Commission brought people who are experts about poverty because they live with the struggle every day and people who speak of their desire to make a difference but who often see their attempts to understand and tackle the causes of poverty fail. Unless people in poverty are included all attempts to develop a better and fairer Scotland will fail.
It is primarily in the work of local congregations across Scotland that the Church's response to poverty has to take shape. As one congregation put it: "Because we witness daily the local issues of poverty and meet and care for and worship with and marry and baptise the people living in that poverty, we wish to creatively partner local people in improving all our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being". The stories of people battling poverty within the supportive context of projects sponsored by congregations are presented as inspirational examples of good practice. Names of the people have been changed to respect confidentiality. Projects were supported by the Parish Development Fund. Information available at www.churchofscotland.org.uk.
The poverty in our midst has prompted congregations to act. Having attended the Poverty Truth Commission last March, I look forward to the presentation of the Congregational Responses to Poverty report and the subsequent debate