Filling the gaps
June letter by Bishop of Taunton
We all know the old adage, one volunteer is worth 10 pressed (wo)men. As we celebrate Volunteer Week 2018 (1-7 June) I want to give thanks for and to the thousands of volunteers across Somerset who love and serve our communities.
Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter once said that a nation without volunteers is a nation without a soul. As we experience continued cuts to our local services, it is volunteers who are ‘filling the gaps’. Offering anything from volunteer drivers ensuring isolated older people can get to the shops, to church groups providing space for young families to meet, to share stories and support each other.
Yet they are not only a lifeline for the more vulnerable groups, all our lives are so much richer thanks to our volunteers.
Our churches, and the ministry of each, rely heavily on the generosity of our volunteers. Whether working with children and young people, helping serve tea and coffee after a service, delivering a reading or leading prayers, or being part of the flower or cleaning rota. Your vicar may be a volunteer too – as more people are called to serve as self-supporting ministers. Volunteering is at the heart of Christian service and discipleship. It’s about the stewardship of our time and talents.
However we are hearing that nationally, volunteering is in decline, and so it may take a rethink in our approach to release those talents, those gifts. There are many hugely talented people within our churches and our communities but sometimes they may feel reticent about putting themselves forward. People might be too humble, or not confident in their own abilities; feel they are not the right fit or not ‘churchy’ enough to put their hand up. How much more powerful for all of us if someone we know says to us “you’d be great for that, you have a real gift for it.” What an encouragement! By having those conversations we recognise and release those God-given gifts.
And let’s be creative. The accountant worshipping in your congregation every Sunday who you have earmarked for the Treasurer role next time around might actually have a passion for creative prayer. Not everyone wants to do their day job in their spare time!
Imagine how our churches might be transformed if we create the roles around the people we have and their gifts, rather than the other way around!
So thank you for your gift of time and talent and be sure to encourage those around you in theirs!
The Right Reverend Ruth Worsley
Bishop of Taunton