Why sign a general letter? One of the things that bishops regularly get asked to do is to sign a letter or a petition. Sometimes that is on a very local nature, but often it is designed to have a much wider audience than that.
On the whole, it is something I decline to do. If I have got a message I want to pass on, then I usually want to write to the person myself or the organisation concerned rather than just adding my name to some lengthy email string or other.
However, I made an exception this year just before Easter.
It was a letter addressed to the leaders of all three of our major political parties - highlighting the fact that there are people going hungry in our country at present, in a way that we have not known for many, many years.
As one elderly person said to me the other day: “It’s worse than the 1930s.”
The letter itself achieved some local notoriety, as it was the one which the Bishop of Oxford had also signed.
When he went with a few others to deliver it to the Prime Minister’s Constituency Office, it triggered someone to call the police.
But, as I say, it was not a letter just directed to the Government – it was one to all of our political leaders.
It was not party political and that was one reason why I was happy to add my signature to it.
More importantly, it was highlighting something that we should be concerned about, both as Churches and as a wider society.
Visiting Abingdon recently, I saw for myself its impressively organised food bank and heard a little about the work it is doing in that town.
That story is, of course, being repeated in many other towns throughout the county. In fact, whilst a few years ago there were hardly any of them, today it is odd to find a medium-sized or large town without one.
They have grown up naturally as people, often led by the churches, have responded to the needs of those around them.
The plain fact is that, in a nation as rich as ours, people are going hungry.
Individuals and families are suffering and together we need to do something about it.
I am not saying that our politicians are uncaring, but there is a terrible danger that arguments over statistics can make us lose sight of the people who are going without.
Yes, the welfare system we had developed did need to be reformed. And, yes, I applaud all those who are seeking to tackle inequalities of any sort. But we must not ignore the cries of those on the margin, and those who are destitute.
God has a particular care for the poor, and so must we.