Our Church’s firm commitment to social justice is long-standing, ingrained and widespread.
Insights is highlighting the work of the Social Justice Forum within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT. In the third of five articles, we let you know about how “table talk” can help those struggling with one of the major costs of living.
The Church and its service arms have a long history of working with housing and homelessness. Advocating for people experiencing homelessness and housing stress, and providing services for people in those situations. The role of the Social Justice Forum is to find ways to advocate, in a broader setting, for an increase in affordable housing.
“We’ve embarked on an initiative with Sydney Alliance to host 130 Table Talks across the breadth of the Synod, which kicks off in 2015,” says Jon O’Brien. “The Table Talks provide an opportunity for people to come together and have a focused conversation around housing and homelessness.
“We want to understand the issues around housing affordability and then work out how we, as a Church, best respond to the issues. To work out what we can do, at a local level, to increase the availability of housing; to come up with creative ways to approach the issue; and to explore innovative funding models to stimulate the provision of affordable housing.”
As well as “ideation”, the team hopes participants will take time to reflect upon the theological underpinnings of the Church’s concern about housing and homelessness.
This concern is reflected by Rev. Park being actively involved in the work of the Forum: “ Working with affordable housing and homelessness is for me a direct mission-shaped Church response. In the Uniting Church we believe that God cares about people deeply, especially for those experiencing poverty and homelessness. As we read in the prophet Isaiah (32:18 ESV) ‘My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.’ Our response with ‘affordable housing’ is thus an inevitable practical response to God’s concern for the people here and now.”
As her comments demonstrate, Rev. Park is “very committed” to the provision of meaningful assistance to homeless people.
“We have to consider whatever we have to share with the people around us. We need to understand how we can utilise our property for sharing with those in need.”
Gabe agrees, adding that the Forum wants to engage all members of the Church “in their contexts, because we think there are a large number of actions the Church can take. [They don’t] all have to be at a state or national level. There are things people can do in their local communities to help people who are experiencing homelessness and housing stress.
“We absolutely want them to identify what those are, and then feel equipped to go out and take that action in their community.”