Every time we listen to the news we hear of the ‘cost of living crisis’.

Most of us are feeling it, but for many in our society, its negative impact is great, especially for low-income families, families with only one parent working, single-parent families and the elderly.

There was a time when tightening our belt meant that we had to forgo some luxuries or recreational activity, but for so many households at this time of year, people are making decisions between heating homes or feeding families, parents going without so kids can eat.

I think we all have to acknowledge these difficulties and in doing so take some sort of action.

What does it say about us, as people of faith, if we don’t take action?

It does no harm to remind ourselves what scripture has to say about these things, and at such times I like to read a great modern translation of the Bible, ‘The Message’, translated by Eugene Peterson.

The Epistle of James is a striking and pastoral book and James, in speaking about faith says the following.

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?

“Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?

“For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you?

“Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2: 14-17)

I like that last verse so much I have it printed on the back of my calling card.

It’s impacting and true that if we only talk about our faith in times like these, without actually doing something about it, then our faith is outrageous nonsense.

Over the last year in Rossorry we have been encouraging people, who are able to, to leave some sort of groceries.

We have a ‘shopping list’ on our weekly news sheet of what is helpful or needed.

We then deliver this to the Foodbank Enniskillen, run by our friends in The Lakes Vineyard Church in Cross Street.

While we’re keen to help, we feel there’s no need to duplicate services. Pastor John Shades and his congregation have a long history in this vital area of ministry, and great experience, so in Rossorry we prefer to support them.

One of our parishioners regularly volunteers with John and the Foodbank, and that support is backed up by our own delivery and then, of course, by our own giving.

What bothers me is that while we’re all feeling the effects of this cost of living crisis, statistics would demand that people in my own congregation are really struggling.

Human nature dictates that many people who are really struggling – nowadays often for the first time – will go to considerable lengths to hide it.

My friends at Foodbank will tell of how difficult it is for some people to access help because of embarrassment or pride.

I also know that people who are slipping into difficulty will begin by masking or hiding that from family and friends.

It disturbs me that I know I have families in need who are using Foodbank, and I’m having difficulty identifying them, because if I knew, I’d help.

However, I fully embrace the need for confidentiality, and I’m grateful that John knows and is doing something about it.

Over Harvest time, our Select Vestry decided to help by supporting mission globally and locally.

Globally through the Church of Ireland’s Bishops Appeal, specifically for aid in Libya, and locally through Foodbank Enniskillen.

The Church has a hugely important theology of help, aid and outreach. Without it we can quickly become inward-looking and entirely focused on our own needs.

Once that happens to a church, we quickly lose our imperative in mission, and surely that’s the whole point of our being here at all!

Foodbank isn’t just feeding people here in Enniskillen, through the Trussell Trust Foodbank is active throughout the whole of the UK, seeking to support the one in seven people throughout the country who simply don’t have enough money to eat properly.

The Gospel of Christ was a Gospel for the poor, in body, mind or spirit.

I think, considered from this point of view, we can see an impoverished society in all these areas.

Families going hungry and cold, people through the pressures of relationships and work increasingly battling with issues of mental health and lastly, in an ever increasingly secular society, churches with falling numbers in all traditions.

It’s easy to blame ‘Big Brother’, our government – my goodness, Stormont isn’t even sitting!

It’s easy to blame a welfare state that cannot cope, or a National Health Service in crisis, and to be fooled into thinking that ‘None of this is my fault’, and that ‘I can’t make a difference’.

I’m reminded of Cain after he had murdered his brother, Abel, and God asked him where his brother was, and how easy it was for Cain the answer: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Actually, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny that we can make a difference, to stand up and acknowledge that, yes, I am my brother’s keeper!

In all that we’re attempting in and for Foodbank, the bit that excites me most is working together with John and his church.

In Rossorry, we have a cycle of prayer we use each week. We pray for the wider Church of Ireland and all the parishes of our own diocese, and then for the local church congregations, traditions and ministry teams, and leaders of our own town and locality.

It excites me in ministry that we can help and support one another; that we can, and should, work together.

I think that’s probably how Christ would have us be!

Rev. Stephen McWhirter is the rector of Rossorry Parish Church.