By Helen Hayden, Justice and Peace Commission
As the year draws to its end, we reflect on what we have lived through in these last twelve months. In January we began to hear of a mysterious virus in Wuhan, China, it felt very far away and we’d seen SARS and Bird Flu, there was no reason to suggest that this would affect us the UK. As people began to leave China, returning to be quarantined we still had little idea that we too would soon be living under such restrictions.

school closed signI am still shocked when I think back to that day in March when the Prime Minister announced that we were going into lockdown. I told the children that they’d be going back to school after Easter, they did but another five months after Easter. Our lives changed overnight. Many of the problems J&P are aware of were brought into relief. However, there were some improvements and we experienced a different way of life.
As mentioned before, J&P changed and adapted. We signed up to Zoom early in lockdown and our first online liturgy was Pentecost. The pandemic has raised the issues of poverty which was the focus of our most recent liturgy on 3rd December, ‘The Lord Hears The Cry Of The Poor-Do We?’, the challenge was to reflect on the we do listen and work with the poor, do we know the poor? Can we put names to reset the debt logofaces? We heard from people with lived experienced of poverty, for whom the pandemic and lockdowns has pushed them over the edge, tipping that balance from keeping your head above water to drowning.
Liam from Church Action on Poverty worked with us on the liturgy and shared their campaign to Send your MP a Reset the Debt Bauble this Christmas Reset The Debt – A fresh start for families in Britain swept into debt by Covid-19

Another of our’ priorities has had a renewed focus in 202o: the Climate Crisis. Never has our environment been more important. There was an improvement in air quality, people appreciated their local areas of green space and discovered new ones. The bird song was clearer and louder or we were actually able to hear it!
the coming of the SpiritOn our Day of Reflection int November, with Dairmuid O’Murchu, we explored ‘What Does Empowering Justice Look Like In Our Time?’ Dairmuid discussed with us the concept of ‘Ecojustice’ that there can be no real justice unless there is justice for all of creation. We explored ‘Compassionate Networking’ and a different ways of thinking about the Kingdom of God and we need another day of reflection on parables! It was an inspiring and empowering day.
It was during lockdown that we learned that the draft Environment Policy, prepared by a group of Commission members and other volunteers, had been agreed by the Diocesan Trustees. Now we need to work alongside parishes as they seek to understand what this means for parish communities.

There are negatives with Zoom; praying and singing together communally is difficult but the fact that it enables us to come together, see one another, discuss and reflect is a blessing. There are huge benefits also; we have been joined by people from the United States, Ireland and various parts of the UK. This would not be possible previously. The networking mentioned earlier takes on a whole new level!

people washing handsThe pandemic has shown us how utterly connected we are as a global community. What happens in one part of the world will affect us. The way we live, what we buy and sell, the way we travel and heat our homes affect other people. This realisation means that we can act to have a positive impact especially for the poorest, most vulnerable communities.
As we go into 2021 with the roll out of a vaccine, we need to consider that we might not want to go back to our old lives and ways of living. We do not have to. We have all missed people and being together, yet people have thought more about others this year than ever before. Many people have lost loved ones, and many have struggled throughout this year. It is with these people in mind that we need to create a global society which empowers.
We need to fight for the poor and make sure that we build a future that children are not hungry, people are not desperate, that our wealth is shared and that we tackle the causes of poverty so abhorrent in one of the riches countries in the world. We need to repair our relationship with our environment, we have lived with less this year, we have lived more simply, this may cause economic problems in the short term but if we can share wealth, we can create a fairer and more sustainable society.
The three priorities of the Justice and Peace Commission allow us to undertake this work, to do our bit to tackle the climate crisis, UK poverty and bring about peace.
The focus of our next liturgy in the new year will be peace, please join us to pray for ways we can care for each other.