Rev Sam Wells talks about Archbishop Blanch Lecture

Ahead of delivering this year's Archbishop Blanch Lecture on October 16th, Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, talks to us about the complexities of poverty and how we as a church respond.

Ahead of delivering this year's Archbishop Blanch Lecture on October 16th, Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, talks to us about the complexities of poverty and how we as a church respond.

How do you feel about being asked to deliver the 2013 Archbishop Blanch Lecture?

It’s a great honour – especially when you think of Archbishop Blanch and the people who’ve been invited in previous years.

What are your impressions of the Diocese of Liverpool?

I love Liverpool. I spent a formative year here when I was 22 and I continue to draw on that time.

You’ve entitled your lecture “what’s wrong with poverty” - without giving too much away, what’s your answer?
Because we often get the wrong idea about what the problem is, we tend to impose ‘solutions’ that exacerbate the problem.

I imagine at St Martin’s you see your fair share of poverty and affluence – has this informed your thinking?
Certainly. What I see a great deal of here is homelessness. It’s an extraordinarily complicated issue, and a great many of the attempts to address it prove counterproductive.

Is the church doing enough to engage with these issues?

Many churches are staying close to the ground and to the vulnerable and listening to them and allowing them to set the agenda and you can’t do better than that.

What should we be doing as a church? Should we be the prophetic voice highlighting the issues or be offering a more pragmatic solution?

I’m not sure we’re in the solutions business. I’m more interested in being with people even when their problems don’t have a solution.

Foodbanks and Credit Unions seem in fashion at the moment – are they part of the solution?

They can be really good ways to learn what people’s real needs are and help people find empowerment to address those needs.

We are a diocese with a large number of poor parishes – what could and should our churches be doing?

Accompanying disadvantaged people as they seek to address their disadvantage individually and together – not trying to solve their problems for them.