A message from CAP’s new CEO, Stewart McCulloch

Stewart McCulloch

As a child, I knew poverty. On cold days, we could sometimes scrape ice off the inside of the windows of the small bedroom I shared with my two brothers. My mother was the youngest of eleven children, growing up in a two- bedroom flat just outside of Glasgow during and after World War II. My dad was raised in Ferguslie Park in Paisley, which has at times been recognised as the most deprived housing estate in Europe. As the shipyards in Glasgow closed in the sixties, my parents moved to a boom town called Coventry – which sadly wasn’t booming for very long.

Despite the struggles my family faced, I’ve been very lucky compared to those I grew up with. The support network I had around me in my formative years, including my parents and some inspirational teachers, made a real difference. Sadly, many who live in poverty don’t have that.

By the time I was 41, I was travelling the world as CEO of an international insurance business, and I thought I had made it’ in my own strength. I believed I was now protected. I was wrong. When my wife died 15 years ago, it was as if the balloon I was living in had been popped. Suddenly I was a single parent with three kids, experiencing grief like I’d never known. None of the material worth mattered when emotionally and spiritually I had nothing. I was, in fact, destitute.

Looking back on my life, I can see many occasions in which God was tapping me on the shoulder, but it wasn’t until my wife died that I really started to pay attention. I was invited to a church service by the local rector during a pastoral visit and went one Sunday, sat at the back and wept the entire time. Church services became my one moment to stop. The welcome team noticed me sitting alone and introduced me to people, and I was soon adopted’ by a couple who offered to meet me for coffee every Saturday. 

I fell in love with the ordinariness of an ordinary church, a place where you can bring your full self, brokenness and all, and be welcomed. The community of the church rallied around me and helped to pull me through that extraordinarily painful time, and ever since then I’ve believed that God’s solution to suffering and poverty is just that: our church community.

Since I joined CAP back in January, I’ve had the privilege of visiting local churches across the UK that have chosen to partner with us. Again, the sense that Christian community is the way forward has never been clearer to me. With the support of local churches, people are not only released from financial difficulty and the fear, anxiety and chaos it creates, but they discover hope, friendship, confidence, purpose, worth and belonging, often for the first time in their lives. They find faith and the power of the Holy Spirit within them. And through this, they’re able to make lasting changes in their life. It’s never about CAP and the Church coming in and fixing’ everything, but encouraging people to see themselves as God sees them: a precious being created in his image, full of potential and loved beyond measure, so that they might step into life in all its fullness.

Together, we are all Christians Against Poverty. We’re a movement that has the power to make a difference – you, me, supporters, staff, volunteers, church members and all those with a heart to see the chains of poverty broken once and for all. As such, there are tens of thousands of us standing up to be counted with every penny donated, every meeting that brings community, every call that brings hope, every social media post engaged with. We face poverty head on, we fight it, and we will do all we can to end it – together.

I feel humbled and privileged to be able to be part of this incredible, passionate movement alongside all of you, led by Jesus and for Jesus, and I look forward to keeping you up-to-date on the impact we make together over the months and years to come.

The armour of God: Stewart’s favourite Bible verse

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’

Ephesians 6:14–17