What does it mean to be a J&P person?

By Steve Atherton

We're already into February and my new year's resolutions are beginning to look a bit tattered. At the start of the year, when I was wondering what I should do to be better as a J&P fieldworker, I made a list of the situations and issues where I think change is urgently needed. My list included lots of issues and causes where people and planet are being treated unjustly: climate change, extinction of species, persecution of minorities, political oppression, the asylum process, access to education, work opportunities for young people, the benefits system, housing availability, family breakdowns, weapons, wars, migration, etc, etc. It's a long, miserable and seemingly growing list.

I got myself into a state of mind where the sheer size of the task and the impossibility of making a positive difference became depressing and demotivating. I wonder how many of you reading this article have had similar experiences. Do you think of yourselves as J&P people? The interesting and encouraging thing is to realise that we are all different. To be a J&P person doesn't mean you have to wear a hair shirt, have a long face and go around telling everybody what to do while berating them for not joining you in sorting out the problems of the world. I guess that's one option and there are such people, but I find them scary and rather unattractive.

First and foremost, being a J&P person means having an attitude of compassion for people and planet. We feel involved in the uncomfortable realities of our world and want to get involved in the best way we can. In religious language, this is called 'putting on the mind of Christ' – noticing what's happening, being touched by what we see, and being specially concerned for outsiders, the weak and the vulnerable. The Gospels are 'good news for the poor', not good news for the rich: we are the holders of a revolutionary way of looking at the world.

We can show this in lots of ways: we may be fiery prophets or quiet listeners; we may be organisers or
encouragers; we may be letter-writers or tea-makers; we don't have to be on the barricades.

Here are some guiding questions to reflect on your own journey:

• What role(s) do I feel comfortable playing? What role(s) did I try out in 2018 and what lessons did I learn?

• How can I stretch myself in 2019, and why? What are the injustices that keep me up at night, outrage me, and push me to act?

• What do I need to learn more about before I step in? Who can teach me how to do that?

• Who else shares my concerns? Where will I find allies and support?

• Where can I take bolder risks? What support systems do I need to be able to take those risks?