‘Back street theology’ and stories from the frontline

Contribute an article for R&RDuring 2014, the growing use of food banks across the country has been a major political story. A key reason is because the Trussell Trust, who coordinate the majority of the food banks in partnership with many churches, have been persistent and determined in communicating the crisis they see unfolding across the UK.

They have told the stories from the frontline of what their thousands of volunteers are seeing every day.  Despite the paranoid responses from the government, this is not because they are an ideologically or politically driven organisation, but simply because they are committed to saying what is really going on.

The story needs to be told.  And its a powerful one.

Faith - community action - social justice

It tells of how the generosity and activism of local people has exposed glaring social needs in our country.  It is yet another example of the intrinsic and enduring connection between faith, community activism and social justice.

‘Theology done on the run’

Kenneth Leech is a Church of England priest who set up the youth homeless charity Centrepoint in the crypt of St Anne’s Church, Soho in central London.  In an 1996 essay titled ‘The Rebel Church in the Backstreets’ he wrote:

“For me, the future of Christian social witness is all about how to relate the concrete struggles of ‘the local’ to the large scale vision of the kingdom of God, the reign of justice, love and peace within the created order of people and things.”

He went on to describe the importance of listening to ‘backstreet theology, theology done on the run’ which is developed by those engaged in the struggles of poverty and serving on the frontline. He contrasted it with much theology which was elitist and academic.

This challenge is still hugely relevant.  The internet is full of armchair commentators and bookshops are full of long academic tomes which don’t connect enough to what is happening on the street.

Connecting up what matters

As the food bank situation illustrates, we live in a time of both deep challenges and amazing opportunities. Two of the most high profile global church leaders, Pope Francis and Justin Welby, are exciting and inspiring many people with their humble, dynamic and fresh approaches.

More than ever, the world needs Christians who are prepared to connect up the things that matter.

People who want to integrate the demands of loving God with the demands of loving their neighbour. People who know that compassion must never be separated from the demands of justice. People who know that faith is always personal but never private. People who know that hope comes through engagement with reality and not escapism from it. People who are committed to both Jesus and justice. People who know that faith involves both resistance and renewal.

R&R in 2015

Since  it in 2011 R&R has had almost 500,000 visits. It has a growing membership on facebook and 530 people get an email every time there is a new post. This has far exceeded my expectations when I started it.

My ambition for R&R is that throughout 2015 it grows and deepens as a website where a wide range of frontline activists can find articles and resources which bring together practical, theological and political thinking. I would like to have more stories from the frontline which embody this, such as Emma Tomlinson’s about funeral poverty or Jeremy Sharpe’s about loneliness.

Four ways to be more involved…

  1. Write a guest post.  Do you have first hand experiences or work or volunteer with people in need? What has your experiences taught you?  Share a story which brings your work alive to others and make some punchy points which gets them thinking.  See here for more information and contact details.
  2. Encourage someone else to write a guest post.  Do you know someone who is always sounding off about social justice? Send them the link to this page and encourage them to write a post.
  3. Sign up to get an email whenever there is a new post. Just put your email into the box on the side bar on the right.
  4. Join the Resistance & Renewal Facebook group 

Thanks for reading R&R this past year and I hope you have a great 2015.

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