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Cost-of-living crisis: are we ready?

The ‘option for the poor’ lies at the heart of Catholic social teaching.  As the cost-of-living crisis bites, its time has come.  Are we ready?

In this edition of Grapevine we open the debate on how our parishes can become beacons of hope in what for many will be the worst of times.  How is the future looking for you and your neighbours?  How does the Gospel summon us to be good news for households under stress? How might your parish respond?

In introducing this issue I ask for your patience: it’s a longer read than usual.  There’s a lot to think about, and the task is urgent.  May I have 15 minutes of your time?

It comes with an invitation to join a wider conversation across the diocese.  With your help, our churches will this winter be offering a listening ear, a hand to those close to the brink, and a voice to ensure their cry is heard.  Join us for a preliminary online workshop on 28 September, and at our annual Assembly on 5 November in Leicester - and if you're in Notts, let's talk about it at Springboard on 10 September.

Once, when a child shared just five loaves and two fishes, Jesus fed 5,000 families.  If a child can make that difference, then by God’s help so can we.

-- Paul and Helen
for Caritas Diocese of Nottingham

 “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, twelve baskets full. Not counting women and children, there were about 5,000 men who ate.”
Matthew 14.20

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Finding our place in the cost of living crisis
  • Field hospital parishes
  • See, judge, act
  • Moving into mission
Forthcoming Caritas events
  • 10 September: Springboard Nottingham
  • 28 September: Cost of living: how might your parish respond?
  • 5 November: Caritas Assembly: 'Bring your loaves and fishes'
Other news
  • Pope Francis' message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
  • Find out more about CAFOD's 'Fix The Food System' campaign
  • 19 August: Film night with Pact 
  • 12 September and 18 October: Social Theology at Lincoln Cathedral
  • Latest Vacancies

Two events to equip parishes in the Diocese of Nottingham to respond to the cost-of-living crisis:

Online workshop
The cost of living crisis: how might your parish respond?
Wednesday 28 September, 7.00 – 8.30 p.m.

We’ll share ideas of how we can respond to poverty, hunger and destitution in our parish congregations and neighbourhoods.  And we’ll begin to develop options for action. 

Caritas can provide bespoke support to a number of ‘beacon’ parishes.  If you would like yours to be one of them, take this opportunity to find out more and invite your clergy and fellow parishioners to come along.

Annual Caritas Assembly
Bring your loaves and fishes
Saturday 5 November, 10.30 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.
at St Joseph’s, Leicester

A day of listening, discerning and acting together on the cost-of-living crisis with national and local speakers, including Sean Ryan of Together for the Common Good, and a range of afternoon workshops.

As we head into the winter, and potentially two years of pressure on the poorest households, join us to share what we bring from our parishes, build common purpose and let the unexpected happen.
If you can’t make either of these dates, please sign up anyway to be kept informed.
Sign up here to respond to the cost-of-living crisis

Field hospital parishes

Pope Francis memorably likened the Church to ‘a field hospital after battle’.  Let’s look around the field hospital parish in the cost-of-living crisis and see what is going on.                                    Image: Harry_NL

Food relief
Many of our parishes donate to their local food bank.  SS Peter & Paul’s School in Lincoln even runs a food and clothing bank, advertised below.  The parishioners of Spalding and Holbeach are taking hot soup and a sandwich to those most in need in the district of South Holland.  If your parish or school operates a food relief service, let us know.

Lately ‘food pantries’ have also been opening.  These are community-owned shops which, rather than giving handouts with their associated stigma, offer essentials for purchase at a reduced cost. 

This winter emergency warmth may also be needed: it has been suggested that church halls open as ‘warm rooms’ for people who can’t afford to heat their homes.

Some parishes, such as Our Lady’s at Bulwell (illustrated below), already offer drop-ins, lunch clubs and community cafes as an antidote to isolation.  Such initiatives will become increasingly important as a means of relieving hunger.

Listening centres
Could your parish offer a more formal kind of accompaniment, helping people to complete forms for Universal Credit or green energy support?  Perhaps it’s time to strike a partnership deal with your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and get wifi installed in your parish hall.
We are developing plans for a low-cost counselling service for people experiencing emotional stress.  Read on for more on that below.
Money advice
Practical support is also needed for those facing hardship.  Some churches offer money advice, but Christians Against Poverty tell us there is a dearth of such provision in the East Midlands.  Could your parish help to close the gap?
Financial resilience
As well as these local initiatives, we can help to transform the wider economic landscape in favour of the poor.  Did you know, for instance, that Catholics helped to found one of the largest Credit Unions in the region?  Clockwise Credit Union was co-founded by Sacred Heart parish in Leicester, and now provides affordable loans across four counties!
Real living wage
The Diocese of Nottingham is committed to becoming a Real Living Wage employer.  Parish employees are already paid at least £9.90, independently calculated as the minimum employees and their families need to live.  Now we are also working to ensure that parish and central suppliers and contractors pay it too.
Last but not least the Church has a role in holding the government to account for its response to the crisis.  This month, for instance, Caritas Diocese of Nottingham endorsed a report, Enough to Live, which revealed the widening gap between Universal Credit and what families actually need to get by. 
Enough to live

On 7 August 2022 a report by Professor Donald Hirsch of Loughborough University was launched by 55 charities, public figures and faith groups, including Caritas Diocese of Nottingham.  His research shows that for an out-of-work family of four on Universal Credit the gap between living costs and annual outgoings could soon be £1,600.  This shortfall will only increase with forthcoming increases in the energy price cap and mortgage interest rates.
The report received extensive media coverage, with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown adding his voice to a call for an emergency Budget to address the real needs of hard-pressed households.  Paul Bodenham was interviewed on BBC Radio Nottingham and Leicester’s Sunday breakfast programme.
Read the Enough to Live report
Hearing the call of the Gospel
Amidst all of the needs and so many potential projects, how are we called to respond?  Jesus called those who followed him ‘salt’ and ‘light’ for the world.  A tried-and-tested way to discern our mission in any given situation is the ‘pastoral cycle’ of See, Judge, Act.
See: Take in what’s really going on.  In this crisis, hearing is perhaps a more useful sense than sight.  Let’s start with listening to people experiencing poverty.

Judge: Discern how Scripture and the Church’s social teaching speak to what we hear, and how God calls us to respond.

Act: Let’s then work with those who are experiencing poverty to develop responses that bring the Gospel to life.
More about the pastoral cycle from Caritas Europa
Listening deeply
Let’s dive a bit deeper into each stage, and start with listening.  In our individualistic culture, poverty has the effect of isolating people from each other.  How can we ensure this crisis brings people together rather than push them apart?  

Our own parish congregations will almost inevitably include people experiencing poverty.  With the past year's Synodal journey we have begun learning afresh what it means to be a listening Church.  How can we make listening a safe and trustworthy experience?
  • A ‘poverty synod’:  Pope Francis has reminded us that synodality is the ‘shape of the Church’  As our diocesan synodal journey continues, let’s heed Francis’ call to extend the embrace of the Church to those who are on the margins
  • A listening campaign:  Conversations which are free from stigma and are led by those who experience poverty can drive real change.  There’s a lot we can learn from Citizens Nottingham and Citizens Leicester’s experience of community organising.
  • Lincoln Poverty Truth Commission:  LocalMotion, based in Lincoln, is about to launch an inquiry to develop creative ways to address poverty in the city, again led by those experiencing it first-hand.
  • Caritas counselling:  If you are a qualified or trainee counsellor and would like to know more about our plans to develop a counselling service, get in touch.  Equally if you think your parish could be an outlet for low-cost mental health and wellbeing support, let’s talk.
Listen here to the lived experience of families during the pandemic

Click the collage below to hear people sharing in their own words their experiences of poverty in the pandemic. And follow this link to the artworks by those interviewed, curated by visual artist Jean McEwan. 

Many thanks to Jean, Hector Macinnes and the Covid Realities project for allowing us to share their work with you.
Discerning our response
While we start to listen, our two forthcoming events will help your parish get ready to respond:
  • 28 September: The cost of living crisis: how might your parish respond?  The online workshop
  • 5 November: Annual Caritas Assembly: Bring your loaves and fishes to St Joseph’s, Leicester
For explorations within your parish we suggest a process called contemplative dialogue.  This was developed last year for our Journey in Hope series, and found to be inspiring by those who took part.  Some resources for this are already available:
Moving into mission
Only after seeking God’s will can we be truly confident that our response is the mission to which we are called, and will bear fruit.

Caritas can offer parish groups tailored personal support to help you develop a drop-in, listening centre or similar service to the community.  We are also preparing a toolkit to help you easily navigate requirements such as safeguarding, food hygiene and health and safety.

If you would find free consultancy support from Caritas helpful, please let us know in the sign up form below, and we’ll be in touch.
Sign up here to respond to the cost-of-living crisis

Springboard: Nottinghamshire
Saturday 10 September 2022

10.00.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. at the Cathedral hall

The final workshop of the current Springboard series takes place at the Cathedral for parishes in Nottingham city and Nottinghamshire.  We shall be joined by Caroline Riley, Development Worker for Christian Action Nottingham, and be able to focus on the rise in poverty across the county.

Following the Synod consultations and Here: Now: Us workshops last Autumn, and as we enter a time of reorganisation, it's a time of change and possibility.  At Springboard we'll celebrate the potential of our communities, make plans for the future, and build the infrastructure that will help turn our plans into reality.

We will:

  • Catch up on ideas emerging from Here: Now: Us and the Synod, and on parish reorganisation, and explore how to turn them into mission
  • Lay foundations for a Hub in each county to lead and foster social outreach close to home
  • Develop listening skills which will help us hear God's call, value each other's gifts and stories, draw alongside the vulnerable, understand their needs and speak up with them.
Book here for Springboard in Nottingham
CAFOD’s Latest Campaign: Fix The Food System
Will Cruddace from CAFOD puts the cost of living crisis in global context:

Our new food campaign is urging the UK government to keep the promises it made at the COP26 climate talks last year and support agricultural systems that tackle the climate crisis as well as putting local communities first.

Climate change, the pandemic and the rising prices of food and agricultural products as a result of the Ukraine crisis, have together revealed the fragility of our current global food system. It’s not working for both people and planet. But together we can play our part in re-thinking it, and challenging the imbalance of power so that it works for everyone.

The good news is that alternatives to the current food system already exist. Small farmers like Suchitra in Bangladesh are growing food in ways that provide a decent income for their families, help local economies and are good for the climate. You can read more of our Food System Success Stories and find out more about the campaign here.

How you can help in The Nottingham Diocese?
We are asking parishes to take part in our 7 Stations activity, which walks through why our food system is broken and shows us some of the ways we can fix it.
A number of parishes in The Diocese have already taken part in the stations, and Elaine and Theresa who hosted a recent event in Cleethorpes said “We found it a really enjoyable experience to host, and we’ve learnt a lot ourselves as well as the wider community.”.

If you would like to organise a 7 Stations activity in your parish, you can order or download a free leaders guide, and participant leaflets on our website. If you have any questions about organising the session, please contact Will, our local CAFOD worker on or 077100 94455.
You can also join us in praying Prayers on Food and Hunger.
Find out more from CAFOD
For the first time, Pope Francis has published in advance his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which is celebrated on the 1st September.
Read a summary and the full message
Prisoners' Sunday falls on 9th October this year.
It is a day to reflect at Mass on what life is like for prisoners and their families and bring them before the Lord in prayer.

Pact is preparing the ground for Prisoners' Sunday by holding
a Film Night at St Peter's Church, Hinckley Road, Leicester
See above poster for more details.

If you want to hold a simple event where you are, Pact will support you,
Please click below more information about Prison Advice and Care Trust or email Theresa at Pact.

Click here for Prisoners' Sunday information
Caritas has partnered with Lincoln Cathedral in a series of lectures over 2022 and 2023 on the theme of social theology - how God calls us to engage with the world, in terms of the economy, work, nature, freedom, social peace, politics and civic life.

The lectures will draw on Catholic Social Teaching and Anglican Social Theology to explore how the Christian tradition can be a blessing to public life and discourse.
Two forthcoming lectures take place at the Lincoln Cathedral from 6.30 - 8.00 p.m.

27 September 2022: Edward Hadas, Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford and author of Counsels of Imperfection: Thinking Through Catholic Social Teaching
JUST BEING? On the dignity and divine calling of the human person. Can people be who they truly are in the modern world?

18 October: Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England, and Visiting Professor in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Winchester
JUST CHURCH? How does Catholic Social Teaching fit into the mission of the Church of England? What is the Anglican legacy for the common good and how might it become a church for England?
Book for a Lincoln Cathedral lecture
A vacancy has arisen for a Prison Chaplain at HMP Stocken,
in Stamford parish. 
Click Here for More Information
The NDCYS (Nottingham Diocesan Catholic Youth Service) is looking for
a new Director.
Click Here for More Information

Prayer During Difficult Economic Times
US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Gracious God,
We know that your love is infinite and that you care about all areas of our life. 
In this time of economic insecurity, help us to trust that all of our security is in you. 
Keep us mindful that you always have and always will provide for our needs.  
Apart from you we can do nothing. 

Merciful God,
We ask that you give our leaders the wisdom to guide our nation and the world
out of the current economic crisis.  
Help us to protect the poor and all those who are struggling during this difficult time.

Provide for their needs and give them hope. 
Open new opportunities for them and furnish the resources they need to live with dignity. 
Encourage those who have enough to share essential resources
with those who lack the necessities of life,
and to do so with humble, grateful and loving hearts. 

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

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Diocese of Nottingham · Willson House · 25 Derby Road · Nottingham, Nottingham NG1 5AW · United Kingdom

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