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Posts Tagged ‘deprivation’

At Cake and Chat, our weekly social group of school parents, church folk and random parishioners, we were talking about Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals to change the government’s definition of child poverty. Our parish ranks in the bottom 2.5% of parishes in the country for deprivation, so we are all familiar with poverty and its effects.

The general consensus was that poverty is not absolute – the amount of money someone has does not define how poor their life is, and especially how poor their children’s lives are. We see many parents with little money whose children are doing brilliantly – growing up with aspirations and discipline. And we know others whose children are not doing so well. Some of this is related to the amount of money available, but mostly it is to do with how that money is directed, and many other factors to do with the ability of parents to raise their children to escape poverty.

Jesus said

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. Matthew 26v11

Poverty is in many ways an attitude of mind, but there will always be those who cannot escape it.  As Christians we follow the God who chose poverty so that we might become rich, and that is why we choose to live in the inner city – so we can offer the riches of Christ to those who know the reality of poverty.

Yesterday I listened to Mez McConnell’s story of grace (I’m going to be ordering his book too). He grew up in the most heart wrenching poverty – not just financially, but in almost every way you could think. What transformed him and turned his life around was not a government scheme or piles of cash. It was the gospel.

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This weekend the Engineer’s godmother, Song, told me that our tow-un had been mentioned on Radio 4’s Food Programme. But not in a good way. It was in a programme looking at the effects and prevalence of trans-fats – factory produced fats which are used in cheap foods and which are linked to obesity and other health problems. Some national companies like McDonalds and KFC have signed up to a pledge to remove all trans-fats from their food by the end of this year. But small independent companies, like most of the ones in our high street, have generally not signed up.

The Food Programme’s presenter, Sheila Dillon, visited our high street (at around 15 minutes into the programme) with Sandwell’s Director of Public Health, Dr John Middleton. Dr Middleton says that Sandwell has been described as ‘fat central’ and that the quality of food that can be bought in the area is a factor in the obesity issues here.

And last week our local paper posted an article about how the high street here is one of the worst in the UK. The rental prices for retail property in the town have plummeted because the profits that can be made are so low that retailers are reluctant to operate here. So nearly all the shops sell cheap or heavily discounted products, which brings us trans-fats in the cut-price food and then the associated health problems.

So here, unlike Bristol, here we’re waiting for Tesco to save and regenerate our high street, as their new superstore is built. Saving and regenerating the town’s people, however, is something only God can do.

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What should we fear?

Some folk think that it must be scary living in our parish, with its deprivation, drug dealers and people like Gone. Last week I found some great quotes on what we should really be afraid of, selected by étrangère from Tim Chester’s recent book ‘The Ordinary Hero‘. I’ve been thinking I should buy it to read this holiday, but slightly fearing to aswell.

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