Church leader challenges ‘normalisation’ at event to mark Food Hub’s 10th anniversary

The need for food banks, and their normalisation as part of society, has come under fire from a leading local churchman.

Revd Russell Furley-Smith, Minister at Purley United Reformed Church where Purley Food Hub is based, said: “There should be a righteous anger that there is still a need, and that the need is increasing.

“And there should be a righteous anger that food banks like ours around the country are just recognised almost as something normal now. That’s not right.”

Revd Russell Furley-Smith was speaking at an Evening of Thanksgiving at Purley URC on 7th June to mark the Food Hub’s 10 years of providing food to local people in crisis. Seventy volunteers, friends and supporters attended.

He referred to comments in the Food Hub’s monthly newsletter by Trevor Jones, Chair of Trustees, who had said that “10 years of a food bank is probably not something to celebrate.” 

He declared: “I absolutely agree with Trevor.

“What is wrong with our politics? What is wrong with our economics that normalises food banks?

“I have got it off my chest because that’s not primarily why we are here today. But I think it needs to be there somewhere and not forgotten about.”

A time for thanksgiving

Revd Furley-Smith said the evening was primarily to give thanks for the original vision of the Food Hub becoming a reality, for the amazing provision of food, and “for the wonderful volunteers who give themselves, their time, energies, skills and expertise to something so vital for our community.”

“As we are giving thanks, let’s recognise the enormity of what has been done over those 10 years,” he said. “Jesus performed a miracle when he fed 5,000. Over the last 10 years, food for over 300,000 meals has been provided by the Food Hub. Over 300,000. Wow.

“In May, 3,340 meals delivered to 370 clients and family members. Wow.

“Those of us who were involved in those initial discussions more than 10 years ago would not believe these figures now. It’s amazing. It’s horrific, but it’s amazing. None of it happens without the rock on whom we are founded, our loving, generous God. So let us give thanks and our praise for our faithful God.”

To God Be The Glory: the closing hymn at the Evening of Thanksgiving. Short videos of the event can be viewed on our YouTube channel. Click on an image to view the relevant clip.

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‘A multi-skilled, diverse community of faithful people’

Giving her reflections at the Thanksgiving Service, Revd Fiona Weaver, a Food Hub volunteer and Trustee, recalled how 10 years ago after becoming priest in charge of St Mark’s and St Swithun’s, she joined local clergy at meetings of Purley & Kenley Churches Together:

“One of the things that really moved me was talking about social action and how can we care for the community. And we started to talk about setting up a food hub. Because I liked the group of people I’d met, I bought into it, and thankfully so did both of my churches, and I’m really pleased that we have supported the Food Hub now for many years.”

But it wasn’t until the Covid lockdown of 2020 that Fiona became more aware of the complex co-ordination and amount of work needed to run the Food Hub and the number of volunteers involved:

“A truly multi-skilled, diverse community of faithful people responding to need in a practical, spiritual way.

Revd Fiona Weaver: "I pray that our services will not be needed in 10 years' time."

“Ten years on, we give thanks to God that we have the God-given skills, gifts, time and talents and use them to serve those in need in His name… Like Russell, I also pray that our services will not be needed in 10 years’ time.”