September’s guest blog comes from Rev Martin Fair, minister of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath. The church developed the Havilah project many years ago to support local people recovering from drug addiction. Martin shares some of his thoughts on why it’s the church’s duty to provide caring support to all. To find out more about the church or the Havilah Project visit: http://www.arbroathstandrews.org.uk/
I was visiting some of our members in Ninewells hospital in Dundee when I came across Jim. I recognised him immediately. I’ve known Jim and his two brothers for ten years; all three have struggled for all of that time with heroin addiction.
I said ‘hello’ to Jim and pulled up a chair at his bedside. He told me that he had his left leg amputated, the result of year’s of harmful injecting.
Some months on, Jim is struggling to come to terms with all that’s happened. He’s only in his mid-thirties, with much of life still ahead of him. But life is never going to be the same again. Despite that, his sense of humour remains unbowed. Responding to me question as to how he was getting on, he joked, ‘I’m just putting my best foot forward!’
I’m glad that our congregation in Arbroath has the means to support Jim. Our Havilah Project exists to support people who struggle with addiction and its consequences and, through it, we’ve been able to offer Jim both practical and emotional support. Whatever else he might not be sure about at this point in his life, he does know that he is cared for - by the local church.
If our churches don’t care, they cease to have the right to call themselves ‘church’ at all. There will be much that churches are concerned with but caring for the most needy in our communities is a non-negotiable. The job of each congregation is to work out where that need lies - among young families, disenchanted teenagers, unemployed twenty-somethings, pensioners struggling to keep warm in the winter… or people like Jim.
What matters most is that we see this role of caring as a privilege and not a burden. Much of society sees people like Jim in the same kind of way that lepers and tax collectors were seen in Jesus’ day. But, as he was deliberate in reaching out to the marginalised and excluded so must we be - and be ready to say, ‘thanks be to you, O God, that you’ve given us opportunity to join with Jesus in reaching out to the ‘least of these.’
Would you be so good as to stop what you’re doing now and to pray for Jim?
Rev Martin Fair
St Andrew’s Parish Church, Arbroath