The beginning of something

highres-2.JPGChristians on the Left is a political organisation. And political organisations have their meetings in Westminster, right? Or at least in Holyrood, Stormont or Cardiff. So why did over a hundred people find themselves packed into a room at Vauxhall Foodbank in south London for the Christians on the Left Summit?

Well, the answer was to be found in the kind of people who were there. 

Of course there were some of the usual suspects. Inspiring speeches from David Lammy MP and Chair of Christians on the Left Stephen Timms MP were met with warm applause.

But those attending the event weren’t just special advisors, think tank researchers and party hacks. Instead, the audience at the community launch of Christians on the Left looked like the communities who are at the sharp end of politics across the highres-12.JPGcountry. There was a mix of genders, colours and ages. But uniting them all was a desire to learn more about how their Christian faith can play a positive role in the politics of the British left.

I spoke to several people who had never been to a political event before, youthworkers and church employees who hadn’t previously considered themselves party political had turned up and decided that now is the time to get involved. You can see why – we heard that there are now more than a thousand foodbank distribution centres across the country – and more planned. This statistic and one of the most moving presentations of the evening came from Chris Mould, the Chair of Trussell Trust – the organisation providing the bulk of the UKs foodbanks. He was joined in giving us the depressing statistics by Matt Barlow from debt advice charity Christians Against Poverty. But they also told inspiring stories as well.

We were shaken up by John Kuhrt from West London Mission, Revd Annie Kirke who plants missional communities for the Diocese of London and Graham Miller from London City Mission.

highres-9.JPGWe heard challenging words from social enterprise pioneer Claudine Reid MBE and Chief Executive of Housing Justice Alison Gelder who quoted Pope Francis. In fact there was a theme developing, with several evangelicals on the panel, we were hearing quotations from inspiring Catholic leaders, such as the Pope and Richard Rohr. In fact, people from many streams and denominations were represented – a real show of unity.

There was time to break into groups to discuss various pressing issues, but the event was about action as well as conversation. Those attending the summit had brought donations and a large pile of groceries was gathered for use by Vauxhall Foodbank. But as well as this example of social action, we wanted to involve ourselves in social justice. So, led by David Barclay from the Contextual Theology Centre, we took part in a mass twitter action, asking Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to allow councils to decide whether betting shops and payday lenders should be allowed to open in their area.

People around the country and around the world were able to join the Summit via social media, and many did. The most exciting thing about the Summit was that it felt like the beginning of something. The spirit of Christian Socialism is alive and well and reaching younger activists. Watch this space...

Read an article in Christian Today here

Hear some interviews with speakers here

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