“I’ll get the envelope”

It’s Christian Aid Week which means that you have hopefully received an envelope or a visit from a courageous volunteer collecting money for the world’s poorest and neediest. I say ‘courageous’ because the Christian Aid deliverer/collector is liable to attract scorn, derision and abuse. Some people do not take kindly if their home is tainted by religious literature.

There is an ethical point to this. The instruction is clear, do not make any attempt to engage with households that have “no cold callers” sign. An envelope through the door is fine but nothing more. If they wish to give they may well decide to send the donation by other means.  For the volunteers, this is the coal face, the sharp end of parish life. Opinions and viewpoints are expressed with candour. In a place like north Oxford you would not expect it any other way! This ministry tests the temperature of  generosity towards organised religion and the God it represents. However, there can also be moments and encounters of pure joy. Take this incident from the Christian Aid website demonstrating the extravagance of God’s love through his people:

A lady came to the door in her dressing gown at 7.30pm looking very tired. She said: ‘You’ll have to excuse me – I’ve just had twins. Now wait a minute and I’ll get the envelope.’

In my church we have a wonderful team who are trained and prepared to take the cause to the wealthiest and the most deprived, to the most educated and to the most chaotic. Christian Aid Week is a landmark in the church’s year. We take this ministry seriously because we hope that it is through action and not words that our prayer is being fulfilled – reaching the unreached, both in the generation of donated funds and in their provision.

Each year in May, over 300,000 volunteers and 20,000 local churches and committees get involved to make Christian Aid Week the largest house-to-house collection in the UK and Ireland.
Each year in May, over 300,000 volunteers and 20,000 local churches and committees get involved to make Christian Aid Week the largest house-to-house collection in the UK and Ireland.

Perhaps there is something about this week’s activity that is more than harassing busy householders with an empty envelope. There is something neighbourly in this task. As we go from house to house we can pray for the street, the people behind the gates and doors, their hidden, unspoken sorrow and anguish. We can pray for an encounter with our local neighbours that they may relate to the needs of our global neighbours in their anguish and sorrow. The church is mobilising its workers as they are commissioned to go door by door, street by street, encouraging the neighbourhood at the local level to raise its eyes to a broken world.

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.