Much has been written and reported in the media about the savage spending cuts the government seem to be enforcing across large swathes of our local community resources. I am not interested in pushing a political view but I am interested in observing, thinking about and acting upon what this means for the Christian church (both here and Niddrie and further afield).
The recession is biting deep for many people. As a family we are tightening the purse strings. As a church we are tightening the purse strings and as a community we are seeing the effect of the government tightening its purse strings. Many local services in Niddrie have had their funding either slashed or cut altogether. Whether we agree with it or not is irrelevant to the fact that it is happening. The question is can the church rise to the challenge and see this as a God inspired opportunity to promote the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and serve our communities in ways not previously possible ? What do I mean by that? Let me give you some examples: one that didn’t work (yet) and some that did.
Last year the local authority closed down the internet facility in the community. I don’t know the reasons why but it was suddenly taken away. We immediately thought of installing some computers in the church cafe in order to (1) serve the community by addressing a ‘need’ and (2) broaden our contact base within Niddrie as a means to establishing relationships. It was a decision taken quickly and it has been a failure. This is for a number of reasons: (1) the machines we have are not the best (anybody wanting to donate any decent ones get in touch) (2) we needed to promote it more in the community than we did and (3) we sussed out that people were logging on to a particular ‘selling’ website in order to pinpoint the address of bikes and cars for sale so that they could steal them! It failed but it can still be redeemed as an idea! The point is we saw a gap in the community and sought to fill it.
An example that has been a roaring success is in our school’s work. All of the local authority funded pastoral and social schemes in the local high school were closed due to funding cuts (despite petitions) and this led to an invitation to go in and offer pastoral care, teach lessons and work with children and families at risk of being excluded. Again, an opportunity to serve our community because, providentially, government cuts opened previously shut doors.
The local Arts venture had its budget slashed and it has now moved some of its community activities into our building: drama/dance groups and even their business meetings! This has led to an invitation for some of us to join this long established community group and to develop and strengthen our community ties through this area of service. Again, only possible, providentially, because of government cuts.
There are other areas as well: we offer community training, literacy, computing, counselling and pastoral help as more and more projects and agencies are having to close their doors and make cutbacks. I hope it doesn’t sound too cynical to say that we have seen this as a God given opportunity to respond to this situation.
The key for us has been (1) keeping our eyes open to what is going on in our community (2) being open to moving quickly when an opportunity suddenly presents itself (3) not minding if some ideas flop (4) actively seeking God inspired opportunities to serve our community.
We are not doing everything right. I am not even saying we are right. I am just wondering if we believers ought to be looking at these cuts in a different light. We are making mistakes at Niddrie. We are making a mess (sometimes). But we are slowly but surely making an impact. We just need to look at every crisis or service cut as a gilt edged gospel opportunity. What it looks like here is obviously different with what it may look like in your area but I suppose the question is: do you know your community enough to know what is going on in it? What service(s) is/are being cut (if any)? How can your church as a community of God’s people respond to this? Maybe what we need is more ‘seeking sensitive’ (in terms of opportunities on our doorstep) Christians as we seek to bring good news to our lost communities.