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UK News

Vicar in most deprived area of Britain says it's a spiritual problem

by Cara Bentley

The government released statistics on Thursday that showed that neighbourhoods in Blackpool account for eight of the ten most deprived neighbourhoods nationally.

The city contained 15 neighbourhoods considered highly deprived, with 30 per cent of children living in households with a low income.

Reverend Steve Haskett, pastor of St John's Church in central Blackpool, who was also born and brought up in the city, said it means ministry is different to other places in the country:

"It is true that there is the most crushing and oppressive poverty and social needs in Blackpool. I think it's probably a place unlike anywhere else in the country, it's got such a unique and distinctive set of problems and circumstances that combined together to make it perfect storm really in terms of the effects and impact on people's lives.

"The result of that is that there are many people who are just coping every day with the most horrendous burdens and issues."

He added that the local Church of England primary school St John's is linked with deals every day with "circumstances that really break your heart in terms of the effect that it has on their upbringing."

However, Rev Haskett explained that there was a "flip side" to this story - that he and other ministers in Blackpool had noticed how "the Lord really is work in the most wonderful and delightful ways."

"We read throughout scripture that the heart of God is inclined - or biased almost - towards those who are poor and on the margins of society and so Blackpool, I think, is a place very much close to God's heart because of what we've seen in the news today.

"What we're seeing in the church is growth, we're seeing renewal, we're seeing resources, workers in increased numbers over the last three to four years, we're seeing new churches being planted on the outer estates in Blackpool.
So, there is there is a flip side in the churches to this story of deprivation and poverty - that the Lord really is at work here in wonderful and encouraging ways."

The Indices of Deprivation measurement has been used by the government since 2000 to measure local areas and it looks at factors such as income, employment, education, skills, health, crime, barriers to housing and services and living environment.

Sam Ward, director of ministry at The Message Trust, who run Eden, a team that plants missionaries in urban area, said: "There are so many towns in our nation where people need to be heard and given hope. The answer to this is never going to be a quick fix. Communities need people to invest in them for the long-term so that together they can transform lives. The church is key to making this happen."

Rev Haskett said: "Solving this is not an economic or a financial problem. I believe passionately that this is a spiritual problem and that it will only be relieved through concerted prayer - so people can pray that the spiritual root causes of the poverty and deprivation in this town will be broken and that the churches would come to flourish and thrive and have a message of life to speak into this situation."

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