NECN in Conversation with Pioneer Minister Jane Emson

Revd. Sr. Jane Emson

Middlesbrough CENTRE OF MISSION

About the Centre of Mission

Middlesbrough Centre of Mission is based on the Brambles Farm and Thorntree estates in Middlesbrough, which are in the top 1% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. – Thorntree is being one of the most deprived areas in the UK (IMD 2019). St Thomas Church (Brambles Farm estate) no longer has a building or congregation and was the last Anglican worship on the estate. The last time the church met there was in October 2006 and their building was demolished in 2007. My role is to start a New Worshiping Community (church plant) focusing on the 20s-40s on the estate.

Lockdown

Lockdown has been really busy. We have been taking up to 60 food parcels out every other week. And in the school summer holidays this has increased to 72 families which means we’re supporting more than 260 people.

The food has been donated from Churches outside the parish and also from Together Middlesbrough and Cleveland who has so generously gave us funding. I not only bought dried food but also fresh fruit and veg and meat which included recipes to cook and online Zoom sessions to help.

We have given out activity packs for over 120 children and run events on Facebook. Activity packs included creating a COVID-19 time-capsule and an Easter colouring competition.

Bramble Farm Foodbank

We have now set up an Eco Shop to address food poverty. People pay £2 for 15 items of food. Food is donated from the local supermarket. Volunteers from local families help to run the shop.

Life before Lockdown

When I first started my role as Lead Evangelist I was told not to really do anything other than get to know the area and to listen to what God is saying for the first 6 months. I understood why and the importance especially as I didn’t know the area its needs or anyone. Anyway, for those who know me this was near on impossible.

So I began by going out with Fr Terry and his Coffee van three mornings a week. It’s where we park the van in different parts of the estates and give out free coffee to people in the local community. With a stamp on the side saying ‘given with God’s love’. In doing this it not only enabled me to be present but also form some good relationships. One in particular was with a guy called L who had recently come out of prison where he told me he had spent most of his life and he told me that he gave his life to Jesus just a few weeks before his release. He said that he would like to help me set up a church and that he wanted to share his faith.

Brambles Farm Coffee Van

I also started to build up good working partnerships and was handed keys to three local community centres and was told I could use them free of charge to set up what groups I felt appropriate, even a church. I was also asked to be one of the trustees at one of the centres.

One of the centres already had a youth club called Tommy’s. However just a few weeks after my arrival the club closed due to lack of attendance. About a month after this I was asked by the Area Dean if I could start it back up. Which I did in November after lots of prayer, a great team and a few changes. We ended up with 142 young people on the register in just a few months.

I find it such an honour and privilege to serve God in Brambles Farm and Thorntree. The people, children and young people are so amazing. They are a beautiful community who are generous and support each other. And whilst being over here I have also met my future husband David. We got engaged on Valentine’s day.

Reverend Sister Jane Anne Emson

Pioneer Minister, Deacon and Church Army Sister

NECN in Conversation with Pam Howell

St. John the Divine Willenham

Last week we were blessed with a moving and inspiring interview with Revd Pam Howell about how St. John the Divine is reaching out into the community of Willenhall in Coventry – before and during COVID-19. Highlights include video interviews with families on the estate and film clips of COVID-safe community days in the church grounds during the holidays.

Food is a big need for people on the estate right now as well as the need to hear and experience God’s love. At the height of the pandemic the foodbank was providing around 28,000 warm home-cooked meals 6 days a week for around 3000 families. People turned up individually at pre-booked times. The feeding programme will continue to be funded by community grants during Easter and the summer.

St. John’s have also applied successfully for a grant from the West Midlands Police to tackle digital poverty, which Pam mentions in the interview. Click on the Community Initiative Fund to find out more and to keep an eye out for any further opportunities to apply for funding.

To watch the interview, visit our You Tube channel on:

If you would like to contact Pam to explore some of the ways that an estate church is reaching out into the community including where they applied for community grants visit https://www.stjohnthedivinewillenhallcoventry.org.uk/ 

Estate Priest Pam Howell

Hope Community Witham

Estate Comunity Church

Once again churches and communities are having to dig deep into keeping hold of hope as we start the New Year with a third lockdown.

Today we bring you some good news of an estate church in Witham, Essex, the Hope Community. Their mission is ‘Bringing Hope, Being Community’. You can find their page on Facebook here.

Like many churches since March 2020, Hope Community have had to quickly learn how to put services online and go through a steep learning curve. Services are currently being streamed live every week via Facebook where engagement has grown from 70 views per week to over 500 views. A Zoom Alpha Group has also been set up by Revd Will Abbott for people to explore questions brought up in the uncertainty of this season which are advertised through Facebook and this group is growing.

Goody Bags Hope Community

As well as being flexible in how to worship God and pray, Hope Community have been reaching out to families in need through the Love Where You Live scheme. This scheme was originally set up in Wythenshawe by The Message. During Love Where You Live weeks in Wythenshawe, volunteers have been delivering food parcels, cleaning up rubbish and even sprucing up gardens. You can read more about the Wythenshawe project on https://www.message.org.uk/love-where-you-live-2/

In Witham, volunteers gave out  over 400 goody bags and food over Christmas to families who have been really touched by this act of kindness. Donations for the foodbank are coming in regularly and there is a Just Giving ‘Love Where U Live’ fundraising page to raise money towards outreach projects to support and care for the wider community. A recent appeal has been for funds to buy treats for NHS staff to show appreciation of their frontline work. A link to give a donation to this fund can be found here.

Hope Community have plans in the pipeline to launch their own website later this year as a charitable organisation. In the meantime if you would like some more details about Hope Community which works with St. Nicolas Church, Witham, visit https://www.withamparishchurch.org.uk/

 

News from CURBS

CURBS logo

CURBS is a small Christian charity set up in 1996 in response to the need for resources and training for church-linked children’s workers in inner cities and on outer urban estates.

Like many charities we have been hit financially by COVID and they’re currently £8000 short to keep going this year. Because of this they have lauched a 100@5 campaign. They’re asking 100 members of our community to commit to giving just £5 a month to keep CURBS going. Can you help?

CURBS would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has already supported them in their 100@5 campaign. They are currently at 55 regular givers on their way to the target of 100, and your support so far has kept CURBS going through this very difficult time and will continue to do so up till Christmas so thank you!

But…

They’re not out the woods quite yet and would so love to reach the target of 100 regular givers giving £5 a month. Just 45 more people supporting CURBS in this way would make CURBS much more sustainable and pay for their development worker’s wage to the end of the financial year.

So if you meant to set up regular giving but never quite got round to it, or if you know someone who would be interested in supporting them please  visit the website

CURBS News

Despite lockdown, tiers and restrictions, the HUBS continue to be busy around the UK, working out different ways of how to connect with children and families during this difficult time. From days of prayer for children, to delivering packs through doors, to patiently meeting up again slowly but surely, they’ve been inspired to hear what people are doing. You can read  Stories from Lockdown here. 


CURBS continues to be an important voice in the conversations happening around how churches are reaching in to estates. It is wonderful to see this topic being more widely talked about and we look forward to seeing where God is taking us.

We thank you for your continued support of CURBS and you’ll hear more about this from us soon!

Transforming Lives for Good relaunch Box of Hope for Winter

Transforming Lives for Good

Since COVID-19 hit the country, TLG has equipped over 200 churches to reach out to some of the most vulnerable families across the UK as part of their Box of Hope project. Over 510,000 emergency parcels have been delivered to families since the start of the pandemic.

As the 2nd lockdown meets winter TLG have relaunched the Box of Hope project. Funding, guidelines and resources which will really equip and release churches in this season can be applied for at

https://www.tlg.org.uk/more/campaigns/box-of-hope

Fundraising support for churches during COVID-19 and beyond

Ecclesiastical Insurance

During these difficult times Ecclesiastical Insurance  in collaboration with fundraising specialists, the Philanthropy Company, have put together really helpful advice and support resources to help you to fundraise for your church community.

Top tips

First of all there is a checklist of top tips for how to begin fundraising. A link to this page can be found here. You will also find a link to various databases of funders and emergency grant funders on that page. There is a search function which could help you to identify a potential funder. Some databases are free and others are available if you pay a subscription.

Build your case

Secondly, once you have decided who you are going to apply to for funding you will need to build a strong case in your application form. This will include:

  • a strong vision of what you want to achieve
  • a breakdown of costs
  • a plan of how you are going to monitor and evaluate the impact of your project.

A more comprehensive checklist can be found be found on https://www.ecclesiastical.com/church/fundraising/application-checklist/

There is also a handy guidance sheet that you can use to help you to write your case if you are new to fundraising.

Outputs and outcomes – what’s the difference?

Finally, you will need to have a clear understanding on some of the key terms used by funders when you apply and when you report back on how the funds have helped your target group. This includes understanding the difference between an output ( the resources used by your church to help others e.g. a new youth worker) and an outcome ( e.g. young people are less isolated). Ecclesiastical Insurance explain this brilliantly on https://www.ecclesiastical.com/church/fundraising/outputs-outcomes/

A free webinar which lasts for around 30 minutes which goes over these points can be viewed on https://www.ecclesiastical.com/church/fundraising/fundraising-webinar/

A final word…

Funders like to see collaboration and partnership. Before you get going on your fundraising make sure that no one else is already doing something similar in your area. Or, if you come across other organisations working with a similar group of people, can you offer something different to that fills a gap? For example, if you want to reduce the isolation of older people can you work in local partnership with other denominations or organisations to complement each other’s work?

 

 

Poverty in the Pandemic

End Child Poverty

Coronavirus has turned the lives of families with children upside down. Millions of parents have lost jobs, or been furloughed with few guarantees of a job to return to. Schools and childcare facilities have largely been closed since the start of the pandemic, and many parents have been facing the almost impossible task of trying to work from home while also providing childcare and home-schooling.

These challenges are more acute in low-income families. Research has shown that the livelihoods of low-income workers are more at risk than the livelihoods of those in higher-paid roles, with many lower-paid workers employed in the sectors that have been bearing the brunt of the economic crisis.

In the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, which has also become an economic crisis, the government has acted quickly to safeguard people’s jobs. The Job Retention Scheme (JRS), in particular, has shielded many families from the worst impacts of the pandemic. The government has also made some important changes to the social security system which have provided a much-needed boost to household incomes at a time when many families are struggling.

However, there has been no targeted financial support for families with children, other than the provision of free school meal (FSM) vouchers, which only partially replaced an existing scheme. The increases in benefits made to date do not take into account family size, with single adults receiving the same increases as those with children. And there has been little recognition of the specific financial and non-financial pressures facing families with children.

To understand the financial impact of coronavirus on low-income families first hand, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Church of England (CofE) conducted a survey, hosted on the Entitledto benefits calculator website. Families’ testimonies of what life has been like during the pandemic provide an important insight into the day-to-day struggles many have been dealing with, as well as showing their strength and resilience in managing such an array of challenges on a limited income.

To download the full report please click on the link below:

Poverty-in-the-pandemic

Church of England Logo

CPAG

What will you do to end homelessness?

“Not having a secure home means not being able to set roots in a place, become part of a community and flourish in the ways that we are meant to. As churches there are many things that we can do to help prevent people falling into the sort of situations that I found myself in. What will you do to end homelessness?”

Revd Grace Thomas, Anglican priest with lived experiences of homelessness.

End Homelessness

We know that home is more than just bricks and mortar. It means safety, security, and an opportunity to build your life on a stable foundation. That’s why responding to homelessness is so key for churches. Right now, that’s more vital than ever.

During the pandemic, homelessness in the UK has changed dramatically. As lockdown began, thousands of rough sleepers were moved into self-contained accommodation. We discovered that it was possible to practically end rough sleeping overnight, if the political will was there. Evictions were paused, reducing the possibility of a spike in homelessness of all kinds.

As we move forward together, we can’t just return to the way things were before, with families up and down the country facing homelessness. It’s crucial that we respond now.

We need to reimagine how we respond to homelessness. As churches, we need to think especially hard. Whilst night shelters and drop in centres are some of the most common forms of social action churches run, they’re difficult to run right now because of social distancing.

It’s key that this discussion is led by those with lived experiences of homelessness, and that’s why it’s great to see that the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptists, URC, Methodists and Church of Scotland are inviting them to the centre of their discussions. Over the coming months, they’ll be amplifying their voices, sharing their stories and asking them what they want churches to do to end homelessness. You can find out about their campaign – and see the first few stories – here. To see each story as it comes out, follow the Joint Public Issues Team on social media.

From supported accommodation to social care, campaigning to employment skills, these stories highlight a whole raft of responses churches can take. This means that as many churches as possible can play their part. Many of these responses are already tried and tested and they just need rolling out wider. They also show that churches can prevent people becoming homeless in the first place, alongside reacting to it. This reduces the need for crisis response and, more importantly, means that one less person faces a night without a place to call their own.

In the last few months, we’ve proved that homelessness isn’t inevitable. Now’s the time for us to be brave, to hear God’s call as He asks us to live out His word differently in this new reality. So, what will you do to end homelessness?


This blog has been written by Dan Simpson who is an intern carrying out research to support work being done by both the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community and also the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).

 

 

Retreats at Home during COVID-19 and beyond

Retreats at Home

 

Are you looking for an alternative way to deepening your prayer life or do you know people who long to draw closer to Jesus?

Residential retreats are very expensive and not always feel possible for people who may have family or work commitments. Many retreat centres are closed due to COVID-19, though some are beginning to reopen.

Retreats at Home

An alternative is to make a retreat whilst staying at home or carrying on with your day-to-day life. Manresa Link is an ecumenical network in the Midlands which gives retreats based on Ignatian spirituality. The retreats last around 6 weeks and during that time people meet with their prayer guide once a week to share how they have got on with their prayer.

During lockdown Manresa Link organised Retreats At Home so that people could speak to their guide over the phone, Whats App, Zoom or any other internet app they had. As lockdown eases some face-to-face meetings may also be possible. The good news is that Manresa Link will continue to offer more remote support if needed.

Manresa Link Candle

Why make a retreat?

Does this sound a bit scary? You might be thinking,

“Help! My prayer life is rubbish!” or “I am not ‘holy’ enough to have a special guide.” “Who would want to listen to me?”

A prayer guide is there to just listen and to help you to discern where God is in your experience.

Even the phrase ‘Ignatian spirituality’ might sound a bit intimidating. What on earth is this, you might wonder. It is simple a way of praying that focuses on Jesus using some insights from St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556). One of these is

“Pray as you can.” He was very practical and down-to-earth.

Being listened to by someone who cares and is not there to judge can be a wonderfully affirming experience. It can also help you to discern how God might be calling you in your discipleship. You can read more about Manresa Link here.

People who make a retreat can make a small donation to cover costs of materials if they can afford it.

Grants to make a residential retreat

If you are feeling in need of refreshment and time completely away from home there is help towards paying for a residential retreat from the Society of Retreat Conductors.

Again, when you click on the grants tab this might look a little bit daunting. It is not as hard as it seems and the Society of Retreat Conductors want more people from estates to be aware that these funds are available. The feedback form you are sent to tell them about your retreat is short and easy to fill in. It could be a life changing experience.

They also offer grants towards helping Christians to train to listen as prayer guides and spiritual directors.

Below is an example of an Ignatian way of praying called the Examen or the Review of Day.

The Review of Day

 

Christians Against Poverty launch resources page in response to COVID-19

CAP logo

Christians Against Poverty is a charity which equips churches to help people come out of poverty.

They have gathered a number of resources to help churches resource our communities as the impact of COVID-19 begins to be felt with rising levels of poverty. This includes

  • Information on Government and industry support
  • Signposting to organisations providing additional specialist support, for individuals and churches
  • Practical advice on how to serve those in need in your community, starting with our new project: Pathways out of Poverty

On their Resources for churches page you will find advice from experts on areas like Universal Credit, debt management and mental health.

A bit about Christians Against Poverty

No one should feel isolated or frightened about how to pay bills and feed themselves and their family because they have no money. It is really horrible! Anyone who has had any financial concerns will tell you how worrying and isolating it is.

CAP’s mission is to restore hope through partnership with churches across the UK. They now have over 300  people working to advise front-line workers all over the country on how to support people trapped in poverty. You can read more about their work here.

CAP also have several videos of people who have been helped to get out of debt which show that with the right support this can be done. If you know anyone worried about their finances get them to have a look at these.

“Always through the Church. Always hope.”

For more information about Christians Against Poverty visit https://capuk.org/