Over 45 Estate Church practitioners from across London and the South East gathered at St Thomas, Kensal Green last week for the first of NECN’s London Conferences. Entitled London Estates: Rewriting the Story, we reflected on the range of positive estate church life, within the hard context we live.
Among many other things, Mike Long and Alan Everett told their story of ministering in the aftermath of Grenfell Tower. You can view Mike’s presentation here:
Lis Goddard put together a very beautiful meditation on London Estates here:
One of the great benefits of the day was being part of a Group of people who minister in the same context – people who get it, and who can help share what they do that is imaginative and which works. If you are interested in being part of one of our Groups, or in helping to form new Groups, please contact us.
Here is a reflection by Emma Ash on the day:
Simon Jones, David Martinez, and Joshua White, all have one thing in common: their names are posted high, under the Stations of the Cross at St Thomas’ Church, Kensal Town. Inside, the church the walls are as grey as the day they were plastered, making the black ink on the white paper stand out all the more. The white marble stations blend into the plastered wall, however, these names below, stand vividly, bringing with it a harrowing effect. There, joined with them, are a multitude of other names, all in a vertical line, all designated to a station. Fixated, I intended to find out more. These men, women, and children have all been murdered this year by knife crime. Their names stand as a reminder to the church to pray, to love those effected by knife crime and to work towards a day when no names in black ink will be posted on the grey plastered wall.
I stopped, prayed, and felt my heart give way as I empathised with the families that grieve. Chills ran down my spine and I knew that God had something powerful to tell us as we gathered at the NECN London Conference entitled “Rewriting the Story.” Yet, what is the current story regarding the Church and knife crime?
A few years ago, theft and burglary were the most common types of crime, however, more recently, violence has soared to the top. The Mayor of London’s statistics from 2018 tell us that 64.6% of those who serve less than 12 months in prison, reoffend. As of 2018, 75% of all knife crime murders are committed by black British males, under 25. The average annual cost to send one of these men to prison would be the same as it would be to send them to Eton College. The current story is one where the Church needs to think long and hard about how we reach out to these young men, partnering with organisations that help with rehabilitation.
Recently, the government has appointed a charitable foundation to help deliver a £200m Youth Endowment Fund, tackling serious violent crime. Churches and organisations can apply for grants if they are working with 10-14 year olds. Christian organisations such as XLP and Outbreak Pimlico, who spoke at the conference, are not only offering mentoring in schools but also safe places to meet in the evenings, teaching life skills to young people, helping to tackle the situation. The great idea behind Outbreak Pimlico is that three churches saw a need but couldn’t single-handedly employ a youth worker, coming together they raised the funds and are now reaching hundreds of youth people. You don’t need to be a big church to make a difference.
In terms of prison work, one thing worth highlighting is that the Oasis Community Learning trust, which is based in London, has just been awarded a contract to turn the Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent into a school for young offenders. This gives hope that second chances are possible and that new initiatives are being explored to help solve the current crisis.
“Rewriting the Story” is not easy and the names in black ink are still being added to the grey plastered wall. However, through daily prayer, listening to those effected by knife crime, and partnering with organisations, we can rewrite the story. My hope is that rather than adding new names in black ink onto the grey plastered wall, in the future, there will be new names in red ink of those who have been transformed, no longer involved in knife crime but helping others who are.