Stop asking permission in 2023

Tricia MacFarlane says we are all called to act in faith and that’s why she established a connected community meal in her own parish.

It can be a daunting thought that we are all called to be missionaries, especially in the seasons of life when it seems like there’s no time to even make a cup of tea.

But, the Holy Spirit calls on us to act. If we attend weekly Mass and think ‘that was a good sermon, it made me think’, and thinking is as far as it gets, are we really living out God’s plan?

On Mission Sunday just past, I had the pleasure of listening to Fr Jim Clarke, a Xaverian Missionary, preach at my parish.

He said: “You’ll never change the world with a faith that’s only in your head, it must be in your actions. From the word of God, you must move into action.”

It is a beautiful and wonderful thing that we are trusted so much by God to live out this mission on His behalf, so what is holding us back? We lost the Dunkirk spirit in our communities long ago.

We’ve been conditioned to ‘mind our own business’, but this is where we’ve got things wrong, as along the way, we’ve lost the capacity to truly connect with each other.

The greatest social justice act we can do as human beings is to volunteer our time and skills. We can all do that in so many ways, around our busy lives, to support causes that we each care about.

My mantra is that ‘no-one needs permission to do a good thing.’ So, when I hear people mention a sad situation that ‘someone’ should be addressing, I will always ask, why not them. There is always something we can do.

Professionally, I work across the UK supporting the NHS, local authorities and charities of all sizes, large and small, to redesign services with the voice of people who need them at their heart.

I’d go to work and come home knowing that I’d played my part in affecting positive change for people, but all around me in my own community, I saw the suffering brought on by poverty.

I read the national statistics for my local authority and it told a bleak and worsening picture. It pained me, but it also reminded me about my personal call to action from Jesus, if I am truly His hands and feet.

I decided to take my own advice and to build a volunteer-led connected community to tackle local social justice challenges, utilising the community assets of my parish.

I spoke with my parish priest, Canon Conroy, did some research on what people might need and identified where there were gaps.

I realised that there was an unmet need for a weekly early evening meal, and the church had facilities that would be ideal to set this up. I also realised that food alone wouldn’t resolve the many issues people face.

So, I got to work in engaging with a national homelessness charity, Blue Triangle, and local grassroots charity, Ben View, and then met with my local Health and Social Care Partnership, and mentioned my idea of a weekly meal with wider support.

All of these partners I approached had been looking to do this but needed support from the community. It was the Holy Spirit at work.

I put asks out for volunteers to help across social media channels and so many brilliant people came forward. In October 2022, ‘The Big Scran’ was born. The idea is simple: Good Food; Good Company.

It’s for everyone in the community, and we see a good cross-section of families and individuals beginning to come along too. We’ve taken great care to remove any stigma and we’re very careful of how we go about building this community to ensure that is always the case.

In just a few weeks, we were feeding around 50 people a week, and at the same time developing friendships which help us resolve some pretty complex challenges people have.

The people who come along trust us because we’re not a service being parachuted into their lives, rather we are a group of local people who care, but with the backing of the partners involved, we can meet people’s wider health and social care needs, where those exist.

We’re looking forward to expanding ‘The Big Scran’ further within our local authority in 2023 and taking it to the east coast with a new set of partners. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made to act, as I have met the most amazing people and have gained much more than I’ve given.

Our country is crying out for connected and compassionate communities to be created and I’d say there’s no better people for the job than us.

We have already been called to be missionaries by Jesus, so let’s ignite a movement across Scotland. People are relying on us to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call, and I can promise you, when you do, it will feel amazing.

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