Our Bible study group wanted to do more than meet, eat some soup together, enjoy each other’s company and get into God’s word – great as all these activities are. So in January 2017 the Love Your Neighbourhood Walk was born.
Studying the book of Amos
Over the years our Bible study group has delved into many book of the Bible but we had never studies Amos. We found Amos to be a difficult book. It deals at length and in depth with the sins of the privileged people of the Northern Kingdom and the punishments that were prophesied. These people were wealthy, they cared only for themselves, they took advantage of the helpless, and they oppressed the poor. God is a God of justice and he held his people accountable for their failure to show justice. He judged them harshly for living a life of ease in the presence of great poverty and injustice.
This gave us much to think about.
We knew that we ourselves often live a life of ease while many in our urban-Hamilton neighbourhood live in poverty. We decided to do something about it. Our church has supported a local food bank over many years. St. Matthew’s House has two food banks in Hamilton, where in 2016, close to 33,000 people used these services. We wanted to make sure that those who are hungry continue to have access to this much needed service
At Halloween our church regularly collects food from around the neighbourhood at our ‘Halloween Community Food Drive’ and for the past three years a team of ‘Locke Street Rockers’ raised money at the ‘Coldest Night of the Year’ fundraiser walk in February. But the But St. Matthew’s House was not planning to participate in that event this year so we decided to walk anyway – and the Love Your Neighbour Walk was born!
So we planned.
First we chose the date – in late March to miss the coldest weather – and next we chose the name. We wanted to show that what we were doing was an act of love and we wanted to involve our neighbourhood. So based on the name – Love Your Neighbour Walk – the 2.5 and 5 km walks were designed to remind us who are our neighbours. The walks passed places where there is some assistance provided for those in need. They passed social housing buildings, City Hall, the YWCA women’s housing building, an inner city public school, a community garden and an Indwell community (affordable housing communities that supports people seeking health, wellness and belonging).
Advertising and registration came next.
One person designed a logo, created a Facebook page, and prepared a free registration page using Google Forms. Another worked with the development team at St Matthew’s House to prepare paper registration sheets with space to add sponsors’ names and donation amounts and an envelope in which to put the money; also a way to make on-line donations that were recorded just for our walk. And we advertised extensively to our own and other local churches and to our friends. Closer to the date of the walk someone else organised people to make hot drinks, crock pots of soup and bread, to serve after the walk, and we all worked hard and we all worked hard to encourage others to register, to find sponsors and raise some money.
The day of the Walk arrived.
On a lovely evening in late March over 40 adults and children, people from ours and other Anglican churches – and one dog – walked. Others looked after registration, made drinks and soup or helped to serve it after the walk. When all the donations were added up we were thrilled to find that we had raised almost $5000. We are aware that this is a drop in the bucket when compared to the money required to purchase the food needed beyond that which is donated. Also we know that food banks are a very short term solution to dealing with the problem of poverty. But our Love Your Neighbour Walk did help us connect the message we received from studying the book of Amos to a problem of today. It also made us and others more aware of the needs in our neighbourhood and our ability to do something about them.