Celebrating participation at harvest-time
Reverend Martin Poole from St Luke's Prestonville in Brighton reflects on how celebrating participation strengthened his community.
'It’s an opportunity to celebrate the amazing work of groups, to say thank you to volunteers, and to show them that what they do connects to the faith life of the church '
Just Church? Why social justice matters for followers of Jesus Christ and the church.
On Thursday, 31 March, Bishop Adrian Newman (Bishop in Residence, Church Urban Fund) chaired a webinar including Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, author of Embracing Justice, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2022. In this special webinar, speakers unravelled the why, what and how of Christian social justice, and discussed the challenges and opportunities for churches to embrace justice – and encourage their communities to do the same.
What follows is a summary of the webinar. If you want to read more about the theology of social justice, visit CUF’s Living Theology Forum and watch a recording of the webinar.
Being present - St John the Baptist, Hoxton
Reverend Graham Hunter joined St John the Baptist Church in Hoxton in 2010. Quickly, he began to involve the church in community action and building relationships with other local groups, from schools, to parent and toddler groups, to local businesses. He believes that churches should be committed to “rooting all action in listening”, and these relationships within the community grew as the church discovered more about the needs in the area. Together they focused on activities that would generate hope, build new connections and address local concerns.
Persevering - Excel Church, Bilston
Bilston is part of the Black Country in the West Midlands, and it has a strong industrial history. It also has high levels of deprivation, unemployment, and other entrenched social issues related to poverty. Daniel Lee is a Church Leader at Excel Church, and has worked there for over 20 years. He has developed the church’s relationship with the local community over these two decades, mainly in schools. Initially, the church would go in and run assemblies and lunch clubs. This has blossomed over the years into a variety of projects, events, mentoring, and clubs.
The Church in Action
During the pandemic, we know that churches have increased their provision of practical, emotional, financial and digital support.
The Church in Action Survey 2020/21 from CUF and the Church of England highlighted the role of local churches in communities. Anglican churches contribute to approximately 35,000 projects that directly support their local communities, and 37% of churches are doing even more now to support people in their parish than before the pandemic.
Mind the Gap! Social action and dawning faith
Peter Rouch, CEO of Church Army UK & Ireland, explores the relationship between human and divine agency in evangelism, especially with those on the margins of society in a blog for CUF's Living Theology Forum:
To London’s 9 million pre-pandemic daily visitors, these are familiar words. Mind the gap between the platform and the train. The gap is a place of danger, or at least uncontrollability. What goes into it, is at risk.
I have another gap in mind of course, but still one that comes with some caution. It is a theological and practical gap possibly existing between human and divine agency in the dawning of faith in human lives; in becoming a Christian.
Read the full article on the Living Theology Forum
Participating - St Andrew's Church, Crewe
Sam and Callum are a mother and son who first visited St Andrew’s church in Crewe whilst attending a baptism. They were “complete non-church goers” who have “undergone the most incredible process of transformation”.
Sam says that coming to church was “the start of everything”. Sam and her son immediately felt welcome and at home at St Andrew’s, and, because of this, they have got involved in many aspects of church life, including the choir, and a variety of social action projects.
Adaptability - St John's Church, Southall
"Southall is just the most vibrant, diverse community in West London. It’s multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and... St John’s has always been at the heart of the community, serving people from all different faith backgrounds”.
Nandini is from Mumbai, India, and came to the UK 30 years ago. Although brough up in a strict Hindu family, she became a Christian, and says that “when Jesus came into my life, he changed everything”. Nandini started off helping at a coffee morning at St John’s Church, and has volunteered in many of the church’s projects, including the Messy Church, and Table Gatherings for parents of children from many different faith backgrounds.