Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Resourcing Christian Community Action

The Church of England has announced a new project to resource Christian Community Action.

How to serve your community’s needs without reinventing the wheel in every parish: that is the challenge posed by a new project to be launched by the Archbishop of York at this week’s General Synod.

The report from Professor Hilary Russell - and a new website - respond to Gavin Oldham’s Following Motion in the “Big Society” debate at Synod in November 2010. More than 45 projects and initiatives are covered in detail in the report and form the core of the website.

Full details are below the fold.

Resourcing Christian Community Action: Parishes and Partnerships
07 February 2012

How to serve your community’s needs without reinventing the wheel in every parish: that is the challenge posed by a new project to be launched by the Archbishop of York at this week’s General Synod.

The Most Revd Dr John Sentamu emphasised how the nation is facing a prolonged economic downturn which will hit many local communities very hard. Every community will be affected by the recession and the need to build up our social bonds has rarely been stronger.

The report from Professor Hilary Russell - and a new website - respond to Gavin Oldham’s Following Motion in the “Big Society” debate at Synod in November 2010. More than 45 projects and initiatives are covered in detail in the report and form the core of the website.

The Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod (GS1815) have committed themselves to three goals for the present quinquennium - one of them is to find new ways to serve the Common Good of all. The challenge is, “How can the experience developed in churches be shared throughout the church so that people thinking how to serve their community’s needs do not have to reinvent the wheel, parish by parish?”

“The Church of England will not forget the hardest pressed communities,” Dr Sentamu said. “We are present everywhere, and we will remain present. Our calling is to build community and neighbourliness with the whole people of the nation.”

He added: “This is a good example of the Church of England using its national profile to develop resources for the local church to use in ways only locally based Christians can define and decide. Now we must make sure it is known about in the places where it can really help.”

The Church of England has a wealth of experience and skill in serving local communities, built up over decades of Christian witness and action for stronger bonds between people and for supporting the lonely and vulnerable. People can now go into the website, starting with the question or issue that motivates them, and find answers, ideas and examples. They can learn from the mistakes of others and discover what approaches work best.

Synod Member Gavin Oldham said: “This report and website brings together current best practice in Christian community action with the resources and knowledge base needed to multiply those good works across the country. It is indeed a mine of information to help local leaders and social entrepreneurs make their initiatives successful.

“It includes a wide range of support services, access to funding, and help with organising volunteers and administration: all based on a thorough investigation by Professor Hilary Russell over the past year. We hope its publication will lead to increasing awareness of the Church’s efforts to contribute to the common good, which are based directly on the Christian gospel’s core values.”

Notes

In November 2010 the General Synod approved a following motion to its ‘Big Society’ debate. It was a call to action, and it has resulted in a major feasibility study over the past year conducted by Professor Hilary Russell from Liverpool John Moores University, with a steering group comprising Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs in the Archbishops’ Council, Tim Bissett, Chief Executive of the Church Urban Fund, and Gavin Oldham, who tabled the following motion in Synod.

The work is now complete and there are two outputs: the report itself; and a comprehensive website www.how2help.net or www.churchofengland.org/how2help.

It is not a comprehensive digest of community action within the Church of England; it is estimated that over 23 million hours of voluntary work is contributed each month outside normal church activities, and the report could not hope to cover all that takes place. However it draws on a total of 46 projects and other initiatives from 36 out of the 41 mainland dioceses.

Some examples of local action from the report:
(These are three examples drawn from the projects which the report and website cover in much fuller detail)

1. St Luke the Physician Church and Neighbourhood Centre, Longsight, Manchester
Longsight is an area south east of Manchester city centre with high levels of unemployment and social and economic deprivation. Built as a combined Church and Neighbourhood Centre, St Luke’s has a multi-ethnic congregation including West Indian and Black African members. The Centre has provided informal day care for more than twenty years for people suffering from stress and living with long term mental health needs.

“St Luke’s is such a lovely place, I think because of the variety of people and the different things going on. And we try, as much as possible, to be accepting of people as they are. It’s not always easy - we have our moments even between the staff! Sometimes, if you are tired it can be depressing to see just what hard lives some people have. But when you see people slowly emerging from their shell, interacting and gaining confidence, it’s very positive and the hard work seems really worthwhile.”

2. The Feast
The Feast in Birmingham aims to help young people of faith overcome barriers of fear, prejudice and apathy between religions and cultures, and empower them to be peacemakers and agents of social change in their communities.

“If the church is going to engage with the world as it is, not just how we remember it to be, then helping young Christians befriend Muslims has to be taken seriously by the church. Whenever we’ve asked Christian teenagers where they learn about Islam they always say either school, friends or the media. They never mention church. Youth Encounter wants to play its part in changing that answer.”

The British Council of Churches set out four principles of dialogue which many people have used since and which inform the Feast’s Faith and Young People events:
• Dialogue begins when people meet each other
• Dialogue depends on mutual understanding and mutual trust
• Dialogue makes it possible to share in service to the community
• Dialogue becomes the medium of authentic witness

3. Kairos Partnership, Hereford
The Kairos Partnership is a charity supported by the Diocese of Hereford but separate from it that works with local faith groups to start and develop projects to help their communities to reduce deprivation which may be due to economic factors, lack of transport or other circumstances.

Kairos works with any faith-based community group (Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other recognised faith) that needs help to turn an idea into a workable project, or to grow a small project into a bigger one. The company will, if necessary, act as an accountable body for funding and assist in making bids, developing a business plan etc.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 at 12:45pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Good forward steps towards social justice in the U.K. by the Church of England. All that is now needed is the assurance that ALL minority groups - including LGBTs - will be accepted and cared for by the Church.

The world will be watching the debate about women bishops. This is perhaps the major step that could be taken by the C.of E. to ensure equality - without the structured prejudice of the proposed 'Archbishops' Amendment', which would make women 2nd class bishops.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 at 10:20pm GMT
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