Today the rain has been lashing down my windows all day and because it is the summer holidays, the children are a little couped up and testy. We don’t have a back garden because we live in a victorian terraced house not far from the centre of Ashton-Under-Lyne. We moved here 12 years ago when I was expecting my first daughter at the grand age of 19. My boyfriend, (the man who is now my husband) and I moved from the leafy semi-detached roads of Gatley, Cheshire to here. There were a few reasons we moved here, 1) we could not afford to buy a house in Cheadle or Gatley, 2) I knew the area from playing in various brass bands over the years, 3) it was comfortably far away from my parents.
My road is a bobbly unadopted cul-de-sac with one row of similar houses to mine. At the end of the road is a main road lined with terraced houses, with the green hills proudly standing in the background. If you took a photo of my area and made it black and white I bet it doesn’t look too different from the era it was built in. We live in a socially deprived area, or that is what is always put on the school’s ofsted reports. I’ve never really understood what that meant, but from my experience living here, it means people who have to work very hard to get by, and that includes me.
As a young working mum, who earned minimum wage doing shift work, married to a man who also worked minimum wage doing shift work, living was always tight. As our family grew, we worked harder. I’ve experienced times where all I have had is the pennies in my purse, where I’ve made decisions to either feed the children or myself.
12 years on and my life has been transformed by Jesus, but we still struggle to get by and the people around me struggle too. One of my neighbours came round to chat and told me she’d had a tin of soup for tea because that’s all she had. We shared stories of scrimping together and in those stories was a glimmer of hope, one that we had each other to lean on and another that things will and can get better.
That is what the good news of the gospel brings, hope when things look hopeless.
Today I read the talk delivered by +Phillip at the Christian festival New Wine, and this quote of his really stuck with me,
“Areas characterised by social deprivation desperately need a gospel of hope”
+Phillip is right.
Hope is needed when people around us are fighting for survival. They are fighting to make ends meet. They are fighting to feed their families, to heat their homes. They are fighting against a rising cost of living where minimum wage and zero hours contracts are not bridging the gap. The church here in Ashton is needed to deliver that hope, but what can the church do when it is fighting for the same survival? Evangelism and Christian hospitality should be the currency that secures and funds a church’s future.
Jesus chose imperfect people to be his disciples, working class, tradesmen, sinners etc. The people who were sent out to deliver the good news that Jesus has, came from challenging backgrounds, the Old Testiment shows God’s call on people who were not perfect. So, like +Phillip says in his talk, church leaders should come from and to these challenging areas, the socially deprived areas like I live in because there is treasure to be found in places such as Ashton.
I believe that God’s call on my life includes and utilises all the things I’ve experienced in my challenging life. I hope that in my placement as I train towards ordination I can connect with the poor, listen to the bereft, sit with the lonely, and hold the forgotten, remembering my own experiences and showing them the hope that Jesus placed in my heart and how they can have that too.
There have been times where I have put all the pennies that I had to give in the collection plate and now as I serve in Rochdale for my placement, I will give God’s people everything that I have to give, from eveything that I am.