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November 13, 2006


Mark Elkashef

Having grown up on a council estate, where a large majority of people were living always focusing on what they didn't have, and complaining about their lives, I thought some of the comments made in Malcolm's book were good. The themes can be hard to accept for many, especially for me knowing the reality of dire situations that others and indeed myself have often found myself in - being right in the depths of hardship before, and seeing all those around me suffering.

I came to believe in God as I grew up and it did open a new world to me. I started seeing not just the harsh reality around me, but also deeply set into the poor community were also signs of hope, even if just a small percentage. A small number of people were really holding the community together, serving those that just complained about our lives, just as I had done before. The people serving were also poor, but gave out to others first, and served first. I thought it was extraordinary. I later found out they were Christian also - and we are friends even to this day.

Sandeep Ali

Having the realisation that by building a better world we are doing something that is much greater than just "me" is something all people need to have, before a significant impact can be made. Looking at just "me", of course we will all realise we cannot change this world. But then when we know God is with us, we have hope. When we have faith we can go the path that is seemingly impossible. Faith is essential to a universal change being made to this world. I commend Malcolm Duncan's efforts to allow people to realise this.



Thank you for your comments. Where are you and what are you doing to engage with the community around you?


Hi Mark

Just getting into things after Christmas and wanted to email to thank you for your posting on the blog. I grew up in a council estate in Northern Ireland and can relate very much to your experiences. I also grew up outside of any understanding of the Christian faith. However, for me, Christianity in Northern Ireland was political in the wrong way. Although this is not universally the case, it still is very often. What do you think? I think it is important to be politically active without forcing people to think that only one political party is right.

Martin Sawdon

Hello Malcolm

Further to my e-mail just after Christmas, I said I would contribute some further thoughts after my reading of your book over Christmas. I have included my e-mail comments below for other readers of the blog to comment on if they wish.

Firstly, it is the most inspiring, encouraging and intelligent book I have read in a long time. I spend far too much time in meetings or reading strategy documents that seem to result in little practical action. I agree with you that it is crucial to establish partnerships with others seeking to bring about the good that people of all faiths and those of none are passionate about. At some point though, the meetings and strategies have to translate into something that impacts the need. Your emphasis on "what do we do with all this stuff"? (p124) is music to my ears. (Your orchestra/choir/conductor analogy incidently was stirring and so illustrative)

Because the ministry we are involved in up here in Barnsley is seeking to invest in disadvantaged and disaffected children and young people, your discussion on the many types of poverty was illuminating and affirming. Poverty of "dignity" and "aspiration" will be useful concepts to express as we engage with others in trying to gain support for our work and encourage others in theirs.

The whole book was affirming of the thousands of ministries like ours around the country, while at the same time being accessible to those of other faiths or no faith. (That's what I think as a Christian... I would be interested to hear the views of someone of no faith or one of my Muslim friends.) The main reason I think it is accessible, is because I reflected on the question you posed on page 133: "Are there ways in which we think that our understanding of this faith and its relevance have been changed in the time we have had together in this book?" I fail to see how anyone, even the most antagonistic non-Christian, cannot have had their understanding positively influenced by your book.

If the above does prove to be the case, the fact that you manage to express the gospel message with such power and relevance to the theme of the book (p107 in particular) makes it all the more triumphant.

Reflecting on the specific questions you ask in this section of the blog: How do you think we can celebrate the good of others...? I was reminded of a presentation on the subject of "Social Capital" I attended recently. This is clearly a popular subject at the moment among politicians seeking to say something meaningful about how to address the problems of disengaged communities. Those people who smile at others (yes, even if they are strangers), say "hello", run an errand for a neighbour, take part in community project's, volunteer etc..., are promoting social capital and helping to bring about better communities and ultimately a "better world". Such people need not and indeed do not always profess a faith or "higher motivation" for their demeanour. Those of us who do profess the Christian faith need to remember that this much is required of us. We cannot hope to share God's love with people if we can't start by smiling and entering into conversation. To those people who have a natural talent for this kind of thing, with or without faith, we can affirm them and learn from them. Sorry...I have gone on too long! Martin

Jeremy Galpin

Hi Malcolm
My local bookshop is not stocking the book at present perhaps a word to your agent? but I have ordered and look forward to reading it. I am working on a project in my local community in Reading which very much builds on the work of faith works but focuses more on the 'Values' element than the 'social action' which from the article in EA magazine is the angle of your book? although of course I know the action springs from the values. I look forward to seeing how your book deals with the issue of values and would be delighted if you could find the time to visit www.heavenhereonearth.org and comment on the draft values I have developed.



I live in Reading! The book should be in stock at all Wesley Owen shops, and if not is available from Greyfriars bookshop and can be ordered at Tescos, Waterstones, WH Smith etc.

I'll take a look at the values on the web and come back to you . Cheers. What are you up to and what do you think the challenges are that you face?

Jeremy Galpin

Hi malcolm, just about half way through the book and have shared elements with a lent group I lead who are doing the ichurch series. most recently it was the statistical analyis you have done on the emphasis on poverty in the New testament in particular. I am very interested in the approach you have taken to the values conversation based around the beatitudes, I have found it quite difficult to grasp, one particular one we have dicussed in our group is whether when Jesus said the 'poor in spirit' did it really mean the poor as you have interpreted it i/e material, aspiration, opportunity. we found the different definitions of poverty helpful and it has shed some light on how through process such as skills sharing we could utilise some of the many skills in the church to tackle some of these wider poverty issues for example I could as a training manager share my skills by mentoring and coaching people into getting and keeping work, food for thought. Are your beatitude steps values? you have termed them 'principles' should the values reflect the 'law' by which we know we have sinned or the gospel by which we are saved? probably somehow both? apologise for my poor theology! What do you think is the biggest barrier to the church really engaging in a new way with the local community?

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