From The Vicarage

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“AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?"

 

On the afternoon of July 7th, a prayer vigil took place in All Saints, to remember Daryl Bunn, who was killed in the High Street a few days previously. We also offered prayers for his friend Liam who suffered serious injuries. Almost 200 people came during the afternoon, to light candles, leave messages in the book of condolence and to offer prayers. Many of Daryl and Liam's families and friends shared in this. But there were others from the town who simply wanted to express their support and concern. One man said to me "We didn't know Daryl, but we wanted his family to know we care". People wanted to show a sense of solidarity; their shock at the violence that had taken place, and their desire to support the families of Daryl and Liam. One of the great strengths of Maldon is that it is a town with a strong sense of community. When tragic events happen, people come together to offer support and practical help.

It is because of this strong sense of belonging that there is such good support for local charities. Maldon has a remarkable number of local charities, doing remarkable work for all sorts of good causes. One of the biggest fundraisers for local charities is the Maldon Rotary Club, who organise big events in the year, to support the David Randall Foundation, Action for Family Carers, Talking Newspapers, and many other good causes. This is, I believe something that should be celebrated, and the energy and commitment of these charities applauded.

One of the great events in Maldon is Cabbie Day in July. There is a party atmosphere in the town when people gather to welcome disabled children from East London, brought here by London Taxi drivers. The Plume school provides lunch, and many in the town are involved in giving the children a wonderful day.

Before the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is asked the question "Who is my neighbour?" His answer is quite shocking. He pushes the boundaries August 2019 Page 4 of who constitutes "my neighbour". My neighbour, is not just the person who is like me, and shares my own race and social background. My neighbour is not just the person from my own street or town. My neighbour is not just the person who shares my religious beliefs. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, what Jesus says is both shocking and counter-cultural. For Jesus, the neighbour is any human being in need, regardless of race, religion or social background.

I often hear people say "Charity begins at home". Whilst I can see the sentiment behind this, my own understanding of the Christian faith leads me to believe that this does not allow us to turn our backs on the rest of the world. Of course, when you look at the immense suffering in the world, it is overwhelming. We cannot, as a nation, or as individuals, solve all the poverty and disease on the planet. We have to make a decision about the things we can support. But neither should we, as Christians, confine ourselves to supporting those in need just in our own town and country. This is why All Saints’ always has special collections when there are major disasters, such as earthquakes or floods. This is why, every Lent, we always support the Bishop's Lent Appeal for our link diocese in Kenya. This is why every May we support Christian Aid week, working with some of the poorest communities in the world. This is why Churches Together in Maldon provided the initiative to support a family of Syrian refugees to live in our town.

Sadly, there is a hardening of attitudes in society against supporting any overseas charity. This has not been helped by exploitation and sexual abuse by certain individuals in OXFAM, who have discredited the otherwise vital work this charity has carried out in some of the poorest countries of the world. Also some bad decisions in the direction of UK Overseas aid, have given opponents of Aid the excuse to argue that we should do nothing to support other nations in need.

Whilst celebrating all the good work that is done in our own local community, I hope that as a Church, All Saints will continue to turn its eyes to the world outside. I hope we will continue to be challenged by the words of Jesus, to see our neighbour as any human being in need, wherever they may be.

Stephen

 

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