By Nick Coke
A year on and there’s only one sentence I can remember from the justice-seeking seminar. Such is the way of things, as we preachers and teachers well know. It came right at the close, just as the speaker was heading for the door. She’d packed up her notes and left the microphone behind at the lectern when suddenly she glanced back over her shoulder, fixed her eyes on me and from under her breath came the throwaway remark – ‘of course we don’t do social justice, we live justly’. She disappeared out of the door and down the corridor. I looked around to see if anyone else was struck by the Colonel’s final word but the post-session hubbub had already began. Perhaps it was meant just for me.
I’ve pondered this one-liner ever since. Continue reading “Do be do be do! Spiritual Exercises for justice-seeking #1”
Naomi and I were on our way to Salisbury this afternoon with our daughter, when we suddenly had to come to a stop on the B3079. We realised that, a few cars ahead, a cow had come into the road. With its friends, the cow waited patiently until it was ready to move on. It reminded us that over the last few weeks, cows have been ‘wandering’ into places they’re not usually found – namely, supermarkets! Farmers for Action, a campaign group, organised a number of actions which drew significant media attention. These, alongside the negotiations, put sufficient pressure to get Asda, Morrisons and Aldi to agree to increase the amount they pay for milk, linking it to the cost of production.
In our pamphlet Marching Towards Justice: Community Organising and The Salvation Army, we describe public actions as being essential for seeking justice. Without it, the other ingredients that we discuss (visitation, power analysis, and leadership development) become neutralised for the purpose of changing the world from the way it is to the way it should be. The public actions by the Farmers for Action are great examples of how it can and should be done. Here’s why: Continue reading “Cows! and what we can learn from the farmers”
Guest post from Panna Simon
When I first came to The Salvation Army in 2012, I was 8 months pregnant and had just been made homeless. I had moved into a privately rented flat that had turned out not to be fit for human inhabitance. There was mould, severe structural problems, no heating and dodgy electricity. It was basically built on top of a garage. This was meant to be the place that I would bring my son back to.
I reported this to the council who condemned the property straight away but then wouldn’t help me with further accommodation because I was in-between an application changing from jobseekers allowance to maternity allowance. I worked really hard to find a flat and then was able to get some money together for the deposit. I moved in on the Monday. I went in to labour on the Tuesday. Just in time! Continue reading “…a Salvationist, telling my own story…”
Guest post from Dan Tomlinson
In the past fortnight I’ve read two books: “Marching for Justice” and “Go Set a Watchman”, the widely publicised sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One, a pamphlet on community organizing and the Salvation Army and the other a novel exploring issues of race, family and faith in the USA in the 1960s. Different though these titles may sound, they both showed me the importance of looking beyond the things that divide us. I wanted to highlight how this is an essential feature of successful community organising.
“Go Set a Watchman” returns to the Finch family of Macomb, Alabama, 20 years after the events in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Jean Louise is now in her late twenties and has been living in New York for a number of years. She returns to the family home for a summer break and discovers that many of the people she knows and loves hold very different views on race than her own. This progressive New Yorker is forced to accept that the town she loves is, at least in part, a town of hatred and division. Continue reading “Though we are different, we are decided…”
Last Monday, we discussed ‘the craft of visitation‘. We reflected on its importance to the role of a Salvation Army Officer: the need for all Salvationists to be involved in visiting, that visitation is a skill that can be developed, and that it is a discipline that is important to plan and prioritise.
In Thurday’s guest-post, Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton said “Building relationships this way is the key to ‘success’.” In this context, we are defining success as ‘effecting social change’ and this is something Commissioner Birgitte knows a lot about, being one of the co-founders of Others, a Salvation Army social enterprise. A social enterprise is an intervention in the market. In Sally Ann – Poverty to Hope about the early days of Others, when it was known as Sally Ann, there is a description of a change in mindset that took place when people realised they should no longer be ‘recipients of development aid or charitable handouts’ but rather ‘business partners.’ Let’s consider how this ‘change in mindset’ might be applied to our practice of visitation in two ways: Continue reading “Visitation for social change”
Guest post by Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton
‘Marching Towards Justice‘ is the best publication I have read in a long time. It is challenging, inspiring, exciting and “Army”!
It gives us glimpses of ‘the heroic stories of the past’: the early Salvation Army – ‘a revolutionary movement seeking to turn the world upside down – an Army born for justice-seeking’. In doing so, it gives us a timely reminder of who we were raised up to be and what we were raised up to do.
The chapter on methodology is excellent and should be read and lived out by every Corps/ Centre in the Army world. It lists four key essential elements necessary to be successful in transforming neighbourhoods: Continue reading “Review: “…challenging, inspiring, exciting and “Army”!””
While doing some of the research for Marching Towards Justice, we were excited to re-discover some of the great advice that is held in Orders and Regulations for Salvation Army Officers (O&R). We focussed particularly on the sections on ‘visitation’, which is defined there as personal contact with people… where they are to be found, with a view to furthering each other’s spiritual interests. We take it as self-evident that seeking to further someone’s spiritual interests involves a concern about their material wellbeing.
For example, if you’re concerned about how somebody’s Bible study is going, you also need to be concerned about whether they are being paid a fair wage in order to put food on the table for their family, or whether the children have enough space to do their homework, or whether the whole family feels safe on their way to work or school. While the earthly and spiritual might be formally distinct, the two are joined together so tightly that neither can survive separation. It is therefore implicit that a visit should lead to action. Continue reading “The Craft of Visitation”
Guest post by Lt-Col Dean Pallant
The International Social Justice Commission was established by The Salvation Army in 2007 and mandated to assist The Salvation Army address “social injustice in a systemic, measured, proactive and Christian manner”. Much progress has been made in developing foundational resources, (books, positional statements, etc) and strengthening relationships with major global organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations. However, the ISJC has also always emphasised the importance of people seeking after justice in their locality. The small ISJC team based in New York, Geneva and Nairobi is determined to support corps and social centres to seek justice in the local community and not just address the macro international problems. Continue reading “Joining the dots – global and local justice-seeking”
By Nick Coke
Today I’ll be celebrating a great victory with a plateful of meatballs. This afternoon I’m off to IKEA (a huge Swedish furniture chain-store) to buy some furniture for the house I’ve just moved into. I’ll be honest and admit I really dislike going to IKEA. I’m just not a shopping kind of guy. But today I go with a spring in my step because the CEO has announced they will be paying the Living Wage. Not the watered down version but the real one. When I step across the threshold I will do so with great pleasure and some pride because I’ve journeyed with Living Wage campaigners for the last 8 years. And today is a momentous occasion. Last month I snapped a selfie with Abdul Durrant, a cleaner from HSBC, who 12 years ago stood up in the shareholders meeting and challenged the CEO to pay the bank’s cleaners a living wage. He did not do this alone. Behind him was Citizens UK – at that time a fairly small alliance of unions, churches, mosques, synagogues and schools based in East London. Since then the campaign and Citizens UK has blossomed. The Living Wage Foundation has accredited over 1500 employers and ensured millions of pounds goes into the pockets of the UK’s lowest paid workers. The living wage has become a hot political topic and dominated the Chancellor’s recent budget statement. In our pamphlet, Marching Towards Justice, we relate our own living wage stories – how we identified it as a prophetic and just alternative to families forced into poverty by low wages; how we worked with poorly-paid members of our own congregations to fight for a living wage; and how we took inspiration from The Salvation Army’s living wage campaign of the 1890s in the match factory. The work goes on – look out for Salvation Army announcements later in the year. Today’s victory is so important because IKEA is the first national retailer to go living wage. Imagine what can happen if others go the same way – John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, WH Smith? Thousands of workers lifted out of poverty. Bring it on! And so, today I’ll eat IKEA meat balls with pride – I even promise not to whinge when I put the flat-packs together. Well done campaigners (every victory takes great persistance, patience and invention) and well done IKEA.