Category Archives: social gospel

The kindness of strangers (and schools)

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” (Matthew 25, v. 35).

It feels like a dark and anxious time at the moment with deep divisions in the country and real fears for the future, especially for those already on the edges of society. However, from time to time something happens which shines a light into the darkness.

Such a light was shone when, on Friday, October 11,  some unexpected visitors turned up at St Mark’s. Five pupils and a member of staff from Edgeborough School arrived, unannounced, in a van stuffed with bags and bags of food for the Farnham Foodbank. They had collected the food as part of their Harvest Festival celebrations and had given with huge generosity.

The six of them unloaded the van, piled the food high, stopped for a brief photo, and disappeared again, leaving behind more than 220kg of food. We didn’t even know their names and they won’t know the names of the people who receive their gifts. It was a real moment of unexpected light and sharing between strangers. Thank you!

It shouldn’t be the case in 21st-century Britain that people have to rely on foodbanks but that is a reality for increasing numbers of families. Between April 2018 and March 2019, for instance, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network, with which the Farnham foodbank is associated, distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 19 per cent increase on the previous year. More than half a million of these went to children. The Farnham Foodbank itself gave 1,499 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis last year.

We are all vulnerable to crisis, none of us intend to be. But sometimes, like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, we find ourselves depending on ‘the kindness of strangers’. And when Jesus was challenged in Matthew 25 to answer “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?” he replied: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

A heartfelt thanks to Edgeborough School and all those who donate to Farnham Foodbank.

 

Talk reveals modern slavery in the UK

“If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t” was the message of a talk on modern slavery and human trafficking, delivered at St John’s Church, Hale, on May 22.

The talk, by Suzette Jones, health and wellbeing adviser for the Diocese of Guildford, revealed that, more than 200 years after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, there are still an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children trapped in modern slavery in the world, and up to 136,000 potential victims in the UK alone, according to the Global Slavery Index. Some of these are hidden in plain sight in our communities – as cleaners, in nail bars and car washes – and Surrey and Hampshire are known to be home to particularly large numbers of enslaved people living in our streets.

Suzette explained that the victims of modern slavery are often vulnerable people who thought they were being given a chance to escape their troubles for a better life – an education, a job, somewhere to live – and are often groomed over time so that they don’t realise what is happening. Once enslaved they usually live in fear, either for themselves or their families or both and so cannot escape. While many come from abroad, many are from the UK and in 2017 the UK had the most victims of slavery in the world, with Albania and Vietnam a close second and third.

The talk, which was accompanied by a film based on a true story about enslaved men working on a farm, detailed some of the signs of slavery to look out for, including people working long hours without the proper protective equipment, lack of money, language problems, not having identity documents and having strange injuries. Car washes and nail bars are particularly known for using slave labour and there is a smartphone app – the Safe Car Wash app – which offers a short survey about the working conditions of car washes, and since its launch a year ago has been used more than 2,000 times with 41 per cent of the reports showing a likelihood of modern slavery. A nail bar app is following soon.

Behind the work to tackle modern slavery is The Clewer Initiative, which works with church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in communities and help provide victim support and care. It relies on individuals to understand and report signs of modern slavery and anyone concerned that they may be witnessing slavery is urged not to tackle it themselves but to call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, or 999 if someone is in immediate danger.

The talk was part of a series of events to mark the 175th anniversary of St John’s Church, Hale. The church was founded by Bishop Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester and resident of Farnham. He was a cousin of William Wilberforce who worked for the abolition of slavery in the early 19th century and whose son Samuel became Bishop of Winchester after Charles Sumner retired.

For further details of The Clewer Initiative and how to spot signs of modern slavery, visit www.theclewerinitiative.org. For further details of the St John’s Church, visit www.badshotleaandhale.org

 

Pictured above is one of the campaign posters for The Clewer Initiative.

Hidden in plain sight – find out about modern slavery and human trafficking

There will be a talk at St John’s on the evening of Wednesday, May 22, to throw light on the pressing problem of modern slavery and human trafficking and to show us what we can do to tackle it.

Suzette Jones, health and wellbeing adviser for the Diocese of Guildford, will give the talk as part of the activities to mark the 175th anniversary of St John’s, in recognition of the church’s links with William Wilberforce who led the campaign to abolish slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.

More than 200 years after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 there are still an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children trapped in modern slavery, and up to 136,000 potential victims in the UK alone, according to the Global Slavery Index. Some of these are hidden in plain sight in our communities – as cleaners, in nail bars and car washes.

In this talk, Suzette Jones will show to look out for the signs of modern slavery and what to do if someone seems to be in danger. The talk will take place at 7pm at St John’s Church and will link in with the

Anyone concerned about modern slavery and human trafficking can report their concerns by calling the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121700, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. In an emergency call 999.

St John’s was founded in 1844 by Bishop Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester and resident of Farnham. He was a cousin of William Wilberforce whose son Samuel became Bishop of Winchester after Charles Sumner retired.