One of the great strengths of the church is the story of our commitment to be a presence in every parish in Scotland. In spite of the words we hear about decline, the church has a good reputation and a very proud legacy of community service. Sometimes, the experts who provide services in our communities, whilst doing a magnificent job, struggle to make connections and enable people to get the best possible benefit from their expertise. In the Grassmarket Centre we have discovered that it is as important to have good relationships with people as it is to have high quality expertise to support people. As one of our members said to a group of health service professionals and social workers who met in our centre not long ago. “You can have all the good ideas and all the money in the world to offer me help, but if you cannot gain my respect, you are wasting your time”.
Prayer: Living God, your Gospel is all about relationships. It is what your church should be good at. Help us to be better at relationships, within our own families and community networks and to recognise that our message of love and salvation is meaningless if people do not feel a sense of acceptance and belonging amongst us. Amen.
In the Grassmarket Centre we have about 300 members. We do not use the terms “service users” and “volunteers”, everyone is a member. So, people who come to us because they have been homeless or struggling with addiction or a mental health problem are treated in exactly the same way as a business executive who wants to “give something back” by volunteering. The reason is that we believe we all have needs, we all have learning difficulties and there is no such thing as a person who is entirely “fixed” and another who is full of problems with nothing to offer. In the exchange that happens between our members the traffic is always two way. We are always learning from one another and receiving gifts as well as bringing them.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, just as you expanded the imagination of your disciples to see that God’s love was for more than just the people of Israel, help us daily to grow in our understanding of the scope and depth of your love. Help us to avoid policing the boundaries of our churches and imagine that there are insiders and outsiders, when all are your children and worthy of your love. There is no them and us, only us, your children. Amen.
A Table from the GRoW workshop
At the Grassmarket Centre we have a number of craft activities that provide training and skills that lead to greater self-esteem and work opportunities for our members. It is wonderful and inspiring to see people whose lives have been at rock-bottom finding a new sense of worth and accomplishment in our various workshops. I am convinced that craftsmanship is a wonderful thing and that whatever task people are engaged in it is really important to instil a sense of pride in the work we do. I have also come to see that most people really do want to contribute to society and do some useful work, they do not want simply to be warehoused and left watching daytime TV all day. I like to think that Jesus was apprenticed at his earthly father’s workbench in his early years and that good work is one of the keys to recovering our human identity. We were put in the garden to tend it and serve it, according to Genesis 2:15. Work is our natural state.
Prayer: Help us, good Lord, to cherish our work and to value whatever task we have been given. Help us also to overcome our tendency to imagine that those without work chose to live that way. Give us generous hearts and the imagination and courage to work towards a more inclusive and fair society that values good work and recognises that faith without it is barren. Amen.