Brexit Blog: “I will pray for you” is not enough

Added about 6 years ago by Su Reid

In our Brexit Blog series, authors reflect on how, as a Christian nation, we can respond to the challenges and opportunities of leaving the European Union.

Note: Sacristy Press is politically – as well as doctrinally – neutral and does not necessarily share the views expressed here.

Su Reid – Lay Reader in the Diocese of York

“What takes people’s voices away from them?” and more particularly “Who silences the poor?” were questions I addressed in an essay in Northern Gospel, Northern Church. I had drawn on a day spent in the company of some Middlesbrough people. Among them were some who said only the friendly spaces in local churches had brought them people who listened. Only there – certainly not in Job Centres – could they begin to talk with dignity about what it is like to be very poor.

In my essay I had concluded their silencing is caused by our cultural and political denial of poverty’s existence among us, and also by the habit, among us “intellectuals”, of writing about “the poor” from a distance, as a phenomenon to be observed. I mused comfortably about extending our liturgical expressions of penitence so as to make ourselves aware of our social and political “sins”. The ordinands, that morning, took up this liturgical discussion enthusiastically. Oh how very comfortable we were!

I spent the morning Referendum Day in a seminar with young ordinands undertaking brief placements in poor urban parishes in Middlesbrough, an area which voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. We discussed the difficulties middle-class suburban congregations, like the ones I work among, confront when they yearn to help the poor and the asylum seekers in Middlesbrough. We send large quantities of tinned food to the Food Bank. We give money to Church Urban Fund. We pray. But what else must we do?

Our discussion that morning led to anxieties about social class, about approaching “the poor and needy” from outside their own conversations, about being patronising. We agreed people like me must find ways of meeting “the needy” in person. We know people so little.

After the Referendum result it seemed to me that those people I so comfortably wanted to help had denounced us all. Not only had Leavers voted out European research funding and collaborative political aspirations, but they had done so because persuaded by liars and slogan-slingers – “Take Back Control!” – to take vengeance on us for their poverty.

Now, Brexit means Brexit. But what does “Brexit” actually mean? I have no idea. We have to work it out, ourselves, with new government leaders. We must make it mean a more equal distribution of wealth and of confidence and of education. The church, which does exist among the poor, must make the voices of the people heard in parliament and in the presses. “I will pray for you” is not a sufficient response to great social need.

Su Reid contributed to Northern Gospel, Northern Church, a must-have book for anyone seeking understand the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in the North of England.

What do you think? Have your say by commenting below, or read our other Brexit Blogs.

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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