A few weeks ago my mother visited and we went down the local river with the kids. When the kids were playing in the river my mam talked about my old friends from the Valleys in Wales. What started off as a happy conversation reminiscing about old friends turned tragic very quickly. Why? Because many of the people mentioned in the conversation have since died. I’m 39 now so how come so many of my friends have died. The simple yet sad answer is despair. Despair that there is no work in South Wales and people live very isolated and despairing lives. The deaths may have been caused by drugs or suicide, but the root cause was one of utter despair.
That evening at church we launched our ‘Christians Against Poverty Job Club’. This is a group that tries to bring hope to those who can’t find work. To help those who for many different reasons are locked into a cycle of joblessness and despair. I spoke about our conversation by the river at the launch and the way in which in our town of Drayton I can see a similar pattern emerging as occurred in Wales.
The tragic facts are that in 2016 I have done four funerals of young men who have died as a result of deep despair. I like many others have had enough.
A few years ago we started a Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre, which is over subscribed. We have a Foodbank that helps with immediate hunger issues, but at the centre of many of these issues are joblessness and addiction. In April we launched our Release group which helps those who have addiction issues. Hopefully, through the Job Club and Release group we will save some lives in our town.
A while ago my son Andrew asked if we could do a sponsored event for the poor of our town. Then in the post I received a leaflet about the Peaks Pilgrimage. It’s a pilgrimage path from Ilam in the Peak District to Eyam some 40 miles north. So we are doing it on 31st July and for the next few days. Click here for the website of the pilgrimage.
Something else caught my eye when I was reading the info. The people of Eyam back in 1665 contracted the plague from London. Rather than running away and spreading the disease across the country, the local Rector encouraged them to stay. In staying they sacrificed one third of the town, but, many more were saved by not spreading the plague.
Despair is a great plague that is sweeping our nation. It causes people to choose oblivion either through drugs or other means. I’m sure in a tiny way we will suffer a bit on the pilgrimage. But perhaps through your support the Job Club and Release group will save lives.
So please sponsor me and Andrew either through a form locally or through clicking the paypal link here.
May our pilgrimage bring hope to those in despair and bring out the wonder within those who cannot see the wonder within themselves.
Fr Hywel Snook, Parish Priest.