The scene: Sunday morning in a town in New Jersey, USA.
This particular church has been on a project, and today it's being brought to a successful outcome. The church had been alerted to the needs of children being taken into foster care: almost always a deeply traumatic experience for the child, and one which needs managing with loving care.
The idea was very simple: to provide a "first-night pack" for children who were leaving home to be fostered. The packs were age related - cuddly toy, picture book, small things for the youngest children, right up to more substantial provisions for teenagers. Toiletries for all. An attempt to give some small comfort to upset, bewildered, probably angry young people.
Entering the church hall was a revelation. Tables were laden with items, sorted by age, being loaded into the packs - small backpack for the youngest, bigger sports bags for the older ones. Money had been raised, items purchased, tables arranged: everyone had, or had had, a role in this project. By the end of the morning, over a hundred packs had been filled and loaded away for distribution over the next few days or weeks.
This was a remarkable scene - but most of all, for the huge sense of purpose, generosity and determination in the room. This had been a project for everyone, young and old, rich or poor, to join in. And most of all, there was a feeling that something positive was being done for young people in great need of love and care. It was a work of charity in the fullest sense of that overworked word. This church was looking beyond its immediate concerns into the wider world surrounding it - and it felt like a good thing to be doing.
It's important for us all to be looking out. In our own locality, we have much to be pleased about: Samara's Aid in Gussage All Saints; the annual Sudan Medical Link Fair; and all the other good causes around the parishes which remind us of the darker side of life. Our New Jersey experience helped us to remember that our care and concern are needed both abroad and at home, by young and old, wherever there is suffering or injustice - or both. As Jesus says about our care for others, "Just as you did it to the least of my family, you did it to me". Simon Tong