A, supposedly Christian, body which I know of was recently challenged as to why its leadership group needed paying when other leadership groups on similar bodies were not paid (even basic attendance expenses). The answer came back: 'no one works for nothing these days'. That, in my view shameful, response says more about the people who made it than the reality of volunteering in our society. Sure, the pace of contemporary life has put great stresses upon volunteering and the spirit of voluntarism itself. Church groups in particular are often very stretched today, due not least to changing patterns of family life, most parents at work, age, and other changing demands. Understandable legislative requirements and compliance can also make volunteering and the practice of the wider voluntary sector more onerous. Yet neither volunteering, nor the professional voluntary sector, is dead. On the contrary, without them, our society would quickly grind to a halt. Nor are they about amateurism in the negative sense.
So today, as we celebrate the spirit of voluntarism in our parish with an office and volunteers party, I am giving thanks for volunteers - many of them deeply conscientious, immensely able and full of very professional gifts. I hope that the group of people who made their dismissive comment will reconsider. I know that they have a particularly challenging job to do at this time. Yet there is much much more to what they do than numbers, money and good organisation. Where the Christian spirit is weak, the flesh will also ultimately fail.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.