The Right Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow (Picture: Keith Blundy)

 Bishop of Jarrow Praises Volunteers

Bishop of Jarrow Praises Volunteers
The Right Revd Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, tonight (Tuesday April 30) praised volunteers as he helped Darlington Town Mission celebrate its 175th anniversary. Based in Church Row, The Mission was formed in 1838 by two Quakers and another local religious figure to meet the needs of people suffering hardship, which in those days was mainly one of poverty. Today, it meets needs including alleviating loneliness and giving practical help, especially when relatives who might have helped live out of town. The Mission visits all who request it, regardless of religion, race, age or gender. Its services are free and it is fully independent and funded entirely through donations. Talking about the positive value of volunteering to the growth of flourishing communities Bishop Mark said: “Let me offer my very real congratulations on the 175 years of service of the Darlington Town Mission and while there is obviously an enormous amount for which to thank God in all that has happened over your 175 years it seems to me that there is still an enormous amount for which to thank God in what is happening today. “I have read your annual report and all that is achieved is really quite wonderful. The 810 visits made in 2011, the outings for 267 people, the whole variety of ways in which people are being supported and above all the remarkable work of your Missioner and the volunteers in all that they do to make this happen. It’s a wonderful example of the real difference that volunteers well led can make to the lives of individuals and communities. “Jesus Himself was a volunteer. One of the very first Christians writing about Jesus says that, though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. That He emptied Himself taking the form of a slave and was born as a human being. “In other words Jesus does not have to do what He does but He volunteers to come and live among us as a human being. In other words He volunteers to put Himself into our shoes. “What the story of Jesus shows us is that compassion comes when we put ourselves into the shoes of other people and what that means, I believe, is that we shall become a much more compassionate society as more and more people have the opportunity to become volunteers because at the very heart of compassion is a willingness to listen to other people and good volunteering means good listening. “Volunteering enables us to stand in the shoes of other people and in that way volunteering helps us to grow in compassion. And that is the reason why we need to find ways in which more and more people can be encouraged to volunteer. Not simply because of the benefits for those who receive volunteering but because there is a real possibility that volunteering will make us more compassionate. “The Darlington Town Mission offers many people in Darlington an opportunity to have their hearts opened in compassion. In this particular case, to stand in the shoes of those who are older and often in the shoes of those for whom life is really quite lonely. “Our society is the society that can always use a very significant injection of compassion and that’s what the town mission is doing. “What something like the Darlington Town Mission shows us is that in society we desperately need the voluntary and charity sector not just for what they do but because it offers the opportunity for all of us to stand in the shoes of others and for our compassion to be enlarged.”