During the February sessions of the General Synod this year two important motions were brought before the meeting for debate. Both of these were proposed by members of the Catholic Group and we commend them to our readers for further study, prayer, and ultimately, we hope, action. The first was a private member’s motion put forward by Andrew Gray from the Diocese of Norwich. His motion sought to “establish a task force to scale up and co-ordinate the Church’s own efforts in tandem with those of major homeless agencies to provide better support for the homeless on both a short and long-term basis”. Introducing the motion, Andrew Gray highlighted the fact that homelessness had risen by 163 per cent since 2010, and that there were 236,000 homeless people across the UK, living on the streets or in temporary accommodation. He said: “It is easy to become angry with the failures of politics. But we must avoid any temptation to apportion blame. That is how secular politics works — it is a recipe for a repetitive, poisonous narrative. We are not an echo chamber for Westminster. We are representatives of Christ’s Kingdom, and we must lead by example.” Andrew Gray also reminded the Synod that the Church had a long and proud history of helping the homeless but that there was so much more we could, and must, do as a church. The task force he proposed would work very closely with the major homelessness charities to make sure that their work could he scaled up and supported in particular ways. Through this support of other agencies it is to be hoped there will be no unnecessary repetition of work. Andrew Gray also spoke movingly about encountering the death of two homeless people in Norwich and London, telling the Synod that it was because of them that his motion was brought to the Synod. He concluded his powerful and moving speech by saying: “In this age of political disenchantment, we must hold high the light of hope. In this age of bad news and fake news, we must be the Good News.” We should be looking at ways in which our parishes can be part of this important work and network and how we can best help the Church in achieving this goal of bringing the Good News to people who are in most need.
The second motion was proposed by Bishop Philip North as part of the work of the Estates Churches Task Force charged with finding ways to bring the Good News of the Gospel into areas of deprivation across the country, our urban estates. At the centre of his proposal Bishop Philip explained: “Here’s the vision. It’s a very simple one. To have a loving, serving, worshipping Christian community on every significant social housing estate in the nation. To plant back in the estates we have abandoned, to better support our presence in the places where we’re struggling. If we can do that, the impact on church and nation will be transformative. As Christians we will be seen to be doing what we are called to do which is to share good news with the poor. We will release unlikely leaders and evangelists who will speak the Gospel in a language that people can understand. We will develop evangelistic resources and approaches that will work anywhere. We will for once be working with the grain of cultural transference, because history shows that if you start with the poor, eventually the rich catch on.” Bishop Philip reminded the Synod that such an aim would have an impact on all areas of the church, from the use of resources to the training of those to work on estates both lay and ordained. Key to this work, he emphasised, is that such workers should be drawn from the very estates – something which thus far had not happened to a great extent.
It is clear that as Catholics in the Church of England we would want to support both of these motions and to work to see the work done not only in our parishes but across the country. In conclusion, Bishop Philip declared that he believed this work would be completed by God’s grace: “That is where the Holy Spirit will one day move, and move with power. The only question left is this. Will the Church of England be there to join in?” Perhaps we might ask a question specific to our circumstances: will the Catholic movement be there to join in? It is the hope and prayer of this magazine that we will be, as that is where we have always traditionally been.