I discovered an intriguing bit of history in the archives of my previous church, which may provide an idea for a Christian response to the energy crisis. It was called, ‘The Ration Club.’

National Shortages

On 8th January 1940, the government brought in rationing to manage food shortages in Britain.  The Germans were bombing food shipments from abroad and the country was not self-sufficient during World War II. So a whole range of food was put “on ration.” Sugar, eggs, butter, milk and bacon were restricted, for example. 

Overnight an adult was only entitled to buy 1 egg a week, 2 oz of cheese, and similarly small amounts of other basics.  Certain foods such as Macaroni became gold dust.  Substitutes were found for rare commodities, such as replacing onions with garlic.

Even with a government issued ration book, there was no guarantee of finding the food you wanted. In February 1941, Vere Hodgson wrote in her diary that she longed for some fruit and went to buy a pound of apples, only to find nothing but Turnips in her local shops!

Such food shortages were hard for families, already struggling from the trauma of war.  Hunger and queuing became a regular and unwelcome reality of life.

How did the church respond?  

A Church Response

Well, one church set up a ration club. I discovered this from some meeting minutes at Holy Trinity Wallington. Whether this was part of a national initiative or just a local invention was not clear. But the Ration Club was run once week by the church in their hall for the community in South London.  

The group did various things to help struggling families. They shared recipes and ideas of how to make rations go further, they pooled ration tokens, provided practical help to others facing hardship, and they shared their hope in Christ. It was a practical and caring response to a national crisis – and not without personal cost. 

I was told that the Luftwaffe used to regularly dump their unused bombs on Wallington when returning home from London raids, to lighten their load before crossing the channel.  Hence, many of the buildings had their windows blown out, making life unpleasantly cold in winter. Food sacrifice, bombs, and the cold were therefore the hazards of running the club.

Energy Crisis

This week, the energy crisis will bite.  New charges for gas and electricity will come into effect on 1st October. Although protected somewhat by the price cap, many will be pushed into fuel poverty and will face a cold and miserable winter.  

We are called to “faith, love and hope” as Christians (1 Cor 13:13).  But what does Christian love look like in a national energy crisis?  What might be our equivalent of the Ration Club?

Local councils have been identifying ‘warm banks’ or places for people to meet in winter.  Could churches offer a warm space to people during the cold months? Maybe we could share our energy saving tips, LED bulbs, or even spare home insulation. As individuals, could we invite elderly and vulnerable neighbours round for a couple of hours every week or take them out to a warm cafe? A place where people can discover the heart-warming message of Christ is a great need.

Radical Generosity

The World Energy Council has called for a spirit of “radical generosity” in communities to prevent the cost-of-living crisis becoming “a cost of lives crisis” this winter.  And they are right: such actions will require generosity because providing warm spaces will cost considerable money. 

Our church faces a 100% rise in fuel bills in the new year, despite the energy cap. Our monthly bills will cost hundreds of pounds more in the colder months.  Charities like ours don’t get help with these costs; these bills are covered solely by the generosity of our members’ donations. It will mean a personal sacrifice for us to open our churches and homes, at a time when we are all under financial pressure.

And, yet, this is a chance to turn on the radical generosity of Christ, while others turn off their heating.  The greatest thing we can do, according to the Bible, is to show Christ’s sacrificial love (John 15:13). Wouldn’t it be great if future Christians were inspired by our church records to that same Christ-like love?  

It is something to pray for.

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Bible Resources for the New Year

We began 2020 at STG with the Joe Wickes of the Bible, the Mr Motivator of scripture: the legendary King David.

“How does a young man keep his way pure?”, he asks. Not with hand sanitizer but by living according to God’s words in the Bible (Psalm 119.9).

We were challenged to don our spiritual sweat bands and keep up the discipline of reading the scriptures in the new year. Here’s a reminder of a few of way to get Bible buff:

Come to Growth Group

As well as hearing talks at church, get into the Bible on Wednesdays 7.45pm in term time. Get in touch for more details.

Get Bible Reading Notes

Explore’ notes for adults and ‘XTB’ notes for children can be bought from he Oasis bookshop in Wallington & The Good Book Company: 0333 123 0880.

Read the Bible in a Year

Pick up a free Bible reading plan for the year from church or download it here. Listen to a daily commentary at readthebible.tgc.org

Listen to the Bible

Rest your eyes and workout those ears with a selection of Audio Bibles for free online at BibleGateway.  Try David Suche, and experience Poirot reading the Bible to you!

Watch Bible Talks

Not all ‘God TV’ is good TV. Quite frankly, some is self-centred promotion that seeks to line the preachers purse in the name of Christ. But here’s a station that will play some healthy stuff. Find faithful Bible teaching at clayton.tv.

That’s a few suggestions. Share yours tips below. And remember what a profound person once said: “Life changing habits come from small steady steps“!

A new year. Broken resolutions. Change is difficult. Recently, Jason shared his story.

Is the Harvest Festival an outdated tradition or could it be a celebration that helps city dwellers reconnect with a vital part of life in our technological age?

Harvest was a big deal in the village where I lived.  You knew it was happening when you saw the clouds of dust rising from the combine harvesters in the fields.  You wished it would finish when the tractors clogged up the small country roads.  And you guessed it was over when the village pub was heaving with ruddy farmers knocking back the Cider.

The Tradition

The pews of the village church were full at the Harvest Festival.  The community understood the importance of the produce they grew.  They knew there were no guarantees of a crop. And, although many did not grow pumpkins or worship God, they would dutifully lay a large tuber on the alter table, in the hope that it would curry favour with the ‘Lord of the Harvest.’

In an urban area like Morden, however, the Harvest Service may seem like a quaint but irrelevant celebration.  The Sainsbury’s Local stocks tomatoes all year round. Many would be hard pressed to pinpoint picking season – unless they had a grow-bag on the patio.  The ingredients in food, how or where it was produced, and the environmental impact on the harvest would be taken on trust from reading packets or websites. 

A Reinvention?

Should urban churches quietly put the Harvest Festival out to pasture, like a much-loved horse that no longer fulfils its purpose? Or perhaps they should radically reinvent the service for modern times, celebrating the produce of urban labour?

The electrician could present at church the air conditioner that he assembled; the IT programmer might gift the software package that she coded; and the Parking Warden might stick a yellow payment notice on the church stained glass window. 

Albert Borgmann, a German philosopher, said that in a highly technological culture like our own, machines often conceal the process of production, disconnecting us from an important aspect of our world and humanity.  He argued, not that we should get rid of devices, but that we should unmask the processes and practices that are hidden from view. In the production of food, that would mean ‘focal practices’ that showed the origins, work and natural processes that went into the food. From a Christian perspective, this would mean doing things that reconnect people with God. 

A Recognition

The Bible says that, ultimately, it is God who gives everyone life and breath, and every good thing (Acts 17:25).  He sustains our natural world. Harvest Festivals are therefore more than a thanks-giving for crops but a celebration of the goodness of God, who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). This kindness of God is seen, in general, through the regularity of the seasons but, more specifically, through the giving of his Son, Jesus, who came to earth to die, taking our punishment for our abuse of his world, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  It is this undeserved kindness of God that lies behind the giving of food and money at Harvest services, which are donated to those in need.

A Re-connection

A harvest service could therefore be an important part of urban life now.  Where townies are largely ignorant of the joys or sorrows of the harvest and unaware of the one true God of grace, harvest maybe a time to remember and reconnect.

Harvest is celebrated in September and October this year. For details of services, visit the events calendar. Gifts of non-perishable food or money for various charities are welcome.