St Julians Baptist Church in Newport has a long-standing relationship with Christian Aid. For many years members of the church have been supporting campaigns, following the charity’s work across the globe and, of course, getting involved in Christian Aid week.
When I rejoined my childhood church around 2005 they were still running the traditional door-to-door collections and holding a special offering on Christian Aid Sunday. It was a regular annual event, but I could see that it had become something of a chore and really needed a radical shake-up.
In that first year, acting as the church’s justice, aid & mission representative, I decided that we would not be doing a door-to-door collection, at the time this was a controversial decision, but I could see that it was a lot of work for quite a small return. It had become difficult to coordinate, we are based on quite a large housing estate and manpower was short. Instead I opted to promote a series of events organized by groups within the church. Each group could choose their own event and invite the community along.
That year we ran our first Quiz-Aid, something that we have repeated every year since and which has become the highlight of Christian Aid Week. Additionally we had a sponsored walk, a car wash, a concert and the usual coffee mornings and cake sales. The end of the week saw us running a special Sunday Service dedicated to Christian Aid Week. We prayed at the prayer stations, we watched the films, we heard the message and a small red plastic bucket filled up with donation envelopes and the proceeds from our events.
In previous years the Christian Aid week donations sent off had averaged around £200. In that first event-led year the red bucket was filled with £1200. This radical change was working, Christian Aid Week was inspiring people to get involved, share in the stories and find new and exciting fundraising activities.
We have continued this event led programme ever since. Every year the events are different, but we always have a quiz. We’ve had musical events ranging from choral concerts to open mic nights, One of our members grows and sells plants from seeds so all of our gardens are looking gorgeous. We’ve had line dancing, a tea dance, some crazy youth events and there is always cake, oh, so much cake!
Christian Aid Week has retained its momentum, it continues to inspire people in so many ways, and it’s wonderful to see the positive change that Christian Aid brings around the globe. I kept that red bucket and I use it every year, it reminds me how simple ideas can challenge us to reach new heights.
As we approached this year’s run of events I began, as I do every year, to panic a bit, would there be enough things happening this year to raise a good sum of money? Would people still be inspired and enthused? Then, on April 25 2015, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck Nepal and we were horrified at the resulting devastation.
Like most churches we operate a distress fund in order to be able to send funds quickly in times of disaster, but people in the church were already gearing up for Christian Aid Week. Would they want to give to Nepal when they were already supporting Ethiopia?
My wife, Jackie, had already decided to organise one of the events this year, it was to be a short sponsored walk along the banks of the local canal at Goytre Wharf. We decided that it was appropriate to dedicate the funds raised from this walk to Christian Aid’s Nepal appeal, rather than to the Christian Aid Week appeal. This approach would mean that people could choose how to direct their giving, a sensible and straightforward idea to address both needs.
A small group of people put their names down to take part in the walk and sponsor forms went home with them. Something special started to happen. It seemed that this small group of people walking a short distance had moved people somehow and the sponsorship started to roll in. The school where Jackie works soon filled up one of the forms and each of the participants found sponsors in their own homes or workplaces. We had expected to raise maybe £200; in fact we cleared £700, a fantastic result.
Coincidentally, in the week following the walk, the children in Jackie’s school were having a ‘Sporting Heroes’ day. They were allowed to come to school dressed as their sporting hero and could tell the story of their hero’s achievements. Two little girls said they wanted to come dressed as Mrs. Long; she was their sporting hero because she walked for Nepal.
It’s a privilege to be a part of the relief effort in Nepal, but surely this approach would have an effect on the giving for Christian Aid Week’s efforts in Ethiopia? We were asking people to decide where there money should go, would they direct it all to Nepal or Ethiopia or would they split it? I expected that the funds raised for Christian Aid Week itself would be less than in previous years.
Wrong! On Sunday May 17th we held our Christian Aid Service. We prayed at the prayer stations, we watched the films, we heard the message, I preached! (It takes some grace to listen to that!). And once again a small red plastic bucket filled up with donation envelopes and monies raised by the different events.
This year our Christian Aid Week fundraising currently stands at just over £1150, with a little more still to come in. That stands aside from the £700 raised for Nepal. A record-breaking year for St Julians Baptist Church. Well done people. What shall we do next year?