The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.
On Tuesday 7th November the fourth annual Faithworks awards ceremony took place. The venue was the Members' Dining Room of the House of Commons and it was a deeply moving and humbling experience. We presented three awards from a shortlist of 18, from an applications pool of 263 different projects! As well as that we presented an award to Robina Rafferty MBE, the former Chief Executive of Housing Justice to mark her mammoth contribution to the arenas of housing and social justice.
Two of the three project awards were sponsored by Spring Harvest and one was sponsored by Congregational and General Insurance. The winners were the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, Open Door - Tyneside and Barnabas Workshops, South Ilford.
More information on the projects and the ceremony are available from the Faithworks website, but I just wanted to reflect here on how deeply humbling the whole process of assessing the applicants was. It reminded me that Faithworks is a movement on the ground made up of thousands and thousands of fantastic people and projects who are relentlessly committed to serving their communities for Christ. They are daily making a difference in the lives of other people and they are doing so without applause, without a lot funding and without the recognition that they often deserve!
One of the things that I said at the ceremony was this:
For the thousands of volunteers and employees of these projects faith is not just an idea. It is not a philosophical football to be kicked around the playing field of life. It is not a business or trading commodity to be clipped and changed and marginalised. Christian faith is the reason they get out of bed in the morning. It is the reason they keep going. Their passion springs from their conviction, like light springs from the sun. They do cannot do what they do if they are not motivated by their faith. When funding runs out, when they hit brick walls of opposition or confusion. When their motivation is question and their methodology attacked, they still keep going. That is because they are passionate about God and passionate about people. In fact, they are passionate about love. We love because God is love. We serve because God serves.
Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical was entitled Deus Caritas est - God is Love. That is clearly demonstrated in the countless acts of kindness carried out unnoticed across the world by people in love with God.
Churches and Christian projects are working out our own contribution to civil society every day. Whilst others are debating whether or not God is on the agenda in Britain, we know that he is not only on the agenda, he is at the heart of it, making a difference through us. We are moving beyond what are often narrowing views of morality to understand that Christian faith is robust and strong and able to work with others. We are learning how to work with statutory bodies, government and the third sector including other faiths. We are learning about servant heartedness, growing in confidence of our own identity and more ready to both engage with others and embrace those who are different. We are building a better world, but we are not the only answer, we are part of the answer. As passionate, if broken followers of Christ, we are also passionate and committed to excellence and to innovation.
Christian faith works – don’t just take my word for it, ask the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from it and its adherents every day.
The early church was described as a group of people who turned the world upside down – we still are – or perhaps we are seeking to turn it right way up! What do you think?