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Annual Report: Social Concerns 2010

The group has met five times during 2010, the July meeting having being cancelled. During the year there have been some changes in membership. After many years of valued involvement, Jill Watts, Joan Barber and Bill Grace have retired with our grateful thanks for their contributions to the Group. New members, who have widened the representation of PACT churches, include Hilary Bonney (Sheet), Brian Edwards (Salvation Army) and Judith Bee (Buriton). We were pleased to welcome Jean Dowdeswell (PACT Chair) at several of our meetings, also Linda Read (Salvation Army), Father Hollins (St Laurence) and Fiona Jeynes (then member of the Community Innovations Team at Community First).

We have, as usual, reviewed and assisted with the distribution of PACT cards at Easter and Christmas and with the Christmas Lunch, this year organised by Henry Marshall, to whom we are very grateful, Jill especially. The Food Bank promoted by the Salvation Army will also be monitored at our meetings and its development supported and publicised. We learned with regret that 'Money Matters' had folded, though there are some alternatives available. This was balanced by good news of the re-opening of the King's Arms and the development of Messy Church.

We have continued to consider the place of older people both in our churches and in the town. The County Council funded team based at Community First continues but with some new workers and covering a wider area. In this "Bigger Society" we are now expected to take initiatives, and look after ourselves, and our neighbours, much more. There are opportunities to express preferences and guide policies (to a limited extent), and we have a growing number of older people capable of speaking from experience and understanding. Is there a role for the churches here?

A related concern has been that some organisations, launched by our Churches and serving the town, have difficulty in recruiting new volunteers at all levels e.g. drivers for Voluntary Care and Trustees and counsellors for the Counselling Service. If the Christian basis for such work is to continue, Christians need to continue to be involved in both 'doing' and the organising. Worthwhile projects may well be taken on by others and in the process lose some of the original vision.

During the year the re-classifying of organisations linked with PACT led to a discussion on the place of the Social Concerns Group, which is not actually a separate organisation. It is sincerely hoped that this discussion will lead to a renewed focus for our work and better communication between the Group, the Committee and the individual churches. As always, we would welcome people who would like to explore how our Christian faith can be expressed in the life of this community, of which we are a part.

Joyce Perry, Convener

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