Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples before one of them betrayed him to the authorities. During the course of this meal, Jesus – the great leader, the man his disciples hoped would overthrow the government and establish his own kingdom, preferably by force – knelt at the feet of these rough, uneducated men and washed their grubby, calloused, smelly feet (read about it here).
British Monarchs used to do this, apparently. As a sign of their identification with Christ, they would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing were also given to the poor. Today the tradition continues in symbolic form, with the Queen giving ‘Maundy Money’ to pensioners on that day.
It was a pleasing coincidence, then, that on Maundy Thursday this year I found myself in a room full of people who were actively giving up the wealth and privilege they had been given for the sake of helping some of the poorest in our society.
It was ChristChurch London’s second ‘Good Ideas Pitch Night‘ – described as ‘Dragon’s Den with friendly dragons’ these evenings give entrepreneurs an opportunity to ‘pitch’ their start-up business to a roomful of people who may be able to offer the expertise they need to take their idea to the next level.
The only rule is that the ideas have to be ‘good’ – they have to be about serving society.
The seven groups pitching last Thursday were: an organisation called ‘Street Doctors’ which trains young people to give life-saving First Aid to victims of stabbings or shootings; a group teaching music to talented young people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity or encouragement to develop their skills; a group dedicated to training teachers in Uganda; a young Dutch man who wants to improve screening for dyslexia in schools in order to substantially increase the rate of early intervention; two different groups working to help rehabilitate ex-offenders; and a ‘comfort food cafe’ called Nana which gives retirees an opportunity to get out of the house for something more worthwhile than bingo and to share their wisdom and expertise with their local community.
Several of these passionate people told how they had given up their jobs in order to dedicate themselves to meeting the need they had identified – quite a feat when you still have to pay your rent and your start-up isn’t yet able to give you a salary!
After all seven groups had made their 5-minute pitches, the audience followed them to tables where they could discuss their favourite idea more deeply, offer suggestions and, if appropriate, offer their expertise or contacts to help take the start-ups to the next level.
I joined Nana’s table, and loved hearing its 20-something creator talk passionately about how sad it is that our culture doesn’t respect the elderly (by which she means people over 65!!) and how we’re in danger of losing the wisdom and experience they have gained over so many years.
I’m useless at estimating numbers of people in a room, but there must have been around 100 people gathered, on a night when many had already left London for the long weekend, and there was a great buzz in the room with connections being made and ideas being shared, encouraged and developed.
Although it was run by a group of friends from ChristChurch, it was wonderful to see that about 70% of the attendees were not from the church (and I don’t know whether any of the pitchers were – I didn’t recognise any of them, but we’re getting big enough now that it’s hard to know everyone).
How great to enter the Easter weekend seeing so many people being willing to humble themselves, give up their ‘rights’, and serve others. I’m sure Jesus would have approved.