Friday, January 15, 2010

Deprivation and clergy deployment

This is just to articulate something that is bugging me a little.

In our Deanery there is a transfer of funds to support clergy deployment in areas of social deprivation. This might seem innocuous - praiseworthy even - but the more I think about it, the less I think it makes sense as a general rule (I happen to support the present divvying-up in our Deanery but on other grounds).

Consider: the argument is that a poorer area is more in need of support from the church, therefore clergy provision to such an area is subsidised by other parishes.

If this was talking about social and economic matters then I would have no argument. Economic deprivation leads to economic support - yes, like for like, the strong helping the weak and so on.

Yet that is not what is being followed. Instead we have social and economic deprivation being met with the provision of increased spiritual resources. The assumption being (I guess) that areas of social and economic deprivation are also spiritually deprived and in need of more spiritual support.

This is what I don't believe to be true.

First off, just from my own experience, working in the East End was very much more straightforward spiritually than in supposedly wealthier rural Essex. As I see it, people in harsher contexts have less grounds for illusion; being less under illusion they are more open to the truth of the gospel. It is the educated and relatively wealthy middle class who have the greatest barriers to spiritual growth as they are able to preserve an illusion of independence for longer.

Secondly, and more importantly, I think it goes against what Jesus taught. He said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.

It seems to me that the church should be addressing itself to areas of spiritual deprivation when considering the deployment of its spiritual resources. There is just the faintest whiff of this being yet another example where the church has become captured by a secular agenda.

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