In what ways is the Church being called to transformation by those currently marginalised within its structures, by those on our estates?
Privileged to be part of this podcast discussion ‘Finding the Treasure – Good News from the Estates’, chaired by Jamie Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey; this is the culmination of a two year project from the CofE’s Estates Theology Group, pairing up local ministers with academic theologians and helping churches and their neighbours to listen and to reflect on what gifts God has given them to share.
Some sound bites…
“Alternative readings bring out aspects of scripture that couldn’t be seen by others; I would love to put the Bible in the hands of working-class people, of people from estates, and have them teach the Church how to read in the way that they might read” Dr Justin Stratis.
“We are each other’s shining touch; if one of us is down the others will pick us up” Natalie from Rubery
“Another legacy for the Church must be enduring and hot anger at injustice; our listening must never be complacent, we’ve found people living with radical social injustices, we should be angry about that…because in the end we are about transformation” Bishop Philip North.
“The boundary is the place we are transformed…to able to dance on the edges, to learn a new dance together, to be transformed by that participation feels like a necessary and rich thing” Revd Claire Turner
This and the other podcasts in the series are recommended listening for those interested in estates ministry and in the Church’s reorientation to face those currently on its margins.
Huge thanks to Al Barrett for the continued inspiration, as well as for the invitation to take part.
A couple of bits of news from our Groups. The Birmingham Group (pictured) has just had 24 hours away. A lot of fun and fellowship, with some deep reflection on how Matthew’s teaching helps us to flourish as Estate Churches. We are very grateful to Stephen Edwards for facilitating this.
The Leeds Group have just put out their January Mailing.
Before you read it, there are now about 20 Estate Church or Urban Church Groups around the country which are part of the NECN family. Please get in touch if you would like help getting one going in your area.
Estates Support Group
We’d love to see you to the next Estates Group Support meeting. It is taking place on Thursday 30th of January at St John the Evangelist Church in Bierley. It is easy to get to from the Motorways.
20 Bierley Ln,
As usual we will meet from 12-2pm and begin by worshipping and praying together. Then we shall share lunch together. Tea and coffee will be available, but please bring your own lunch.
This is a great opportunity to pray together and support one another. It is a safe space so do bring any concerns you have or ideas you would like to explore with a few like-minded people.
Annual Conference Day
We are currently in the planning stages for this year’s Estates Conference in Leeds Diocese and we hope to be able to provide more concrete details in the coming weeks.
Annual Conference Day
There has been a lot of action going on with the National Estates Church Network behind the scenes. Robb Sutherland has recently been appointed a trustee. Since funding was secured from Allchurches Trust at the end of 2019, a lot of changes have happened to enable the work of promoting estates ministry to grow. With around 20 other local estates church groups like ours growing around the country, we can expect big things in the coming year.
NECN have also revamped their online presence with a new website and social media presence.
On February the 22nd it will be the 1 Year Anniversary of the historic vote at General Synod ‘to see a loving serving worshipping Christian Community on every significant social housing estate’. There will be a series of things across social media to keep momentum going in the movement. This prayer will be used as part of that and we encourage you to use it that following Sunday in services.
your compassion embraces all people.
Renew your church in service of the urban estates of our nation;
that anointed by your Spirit
we may bear witness to your power to heal and save,
and the transforming love revealed in your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the last two years there has been an estates focused Leading Your Church in to Growth course that has been well received. Robb, Gordon and Martine have all be to it and found it a really useful place to share good practice with people who are all “in the same boat”.
Gordon Dey writes:
‘LyCiG had a major impact on me as a Parish Priest in Holme Wood in Bradford. After an initial LyCiG ‘experience’ that challenged my own thinking and mission strategy, I was determined to take a parish team with me for a 2nd ‘bite of the cherrry’ so that we would retain and implement the key convictions we identified from the excellent teaching. I was also glad to attend the first ‘Estates LyCiG’ two years ago, and could see that the benefit of holding such an event enabled the teaching to be more relevant, and the networking more focused. I warmly commend the 2020 conference to all those who are seeking to grow their church – particularly if you are able to bring others with you.’
This year’s conference is taking place on 17th to the 19th of June.
At this busiest and most pressured time of year, we would like to thank you for your work as Estate Church leaders.
It is banal to speak of this ‘business-end of Advent’ as being so full as we dash about fulfilling Church and community duties, while also trying to find space for God, for ourselves, and for our friends and families, but it is so true.
We pray that Christmas is good for you. But also wonder what this might mean? For many of us it will not be the ‘success’ of hundreds of people through the doors of our churches at multiple services that we see shared so often on social media this week (our advice would be to sit very lightly to Facebook and Twitter the next few days).
We give thanks for so much faithful and good work done by estate churches. I think of the huge difference we make in so many ways. The physical hunger that is now, disgracefully, such a part of British urban life. When we work with primary schools at Christmas, we have to be so careful in what we say – not now to be the minister who ends up in the newspaper as saying something unwise about Santa Claus – but remembering that Christmas is such a bad time for so many families. We might think of the utter joy on a mother’s face as she is given a few carrier bags of tinned food from a vestry cupboard.
If we are looking for the meaning of Christmas it is here. It is in the many overlooked and humble acts of love that Estate Churches make. If we look carefully, it is here that we might glimpse the face of Jesus.
Fritz Eichenberg, Christ of the Soup Line
Our communities are so often in what Thomas Merton called the time of no room. Thank you for making the space that matters. Space for God. Space for those who he truly loves.
We are reminded of Fr Joe Williamson remembering a childhood in poverty a hundred years ago:
My first day at school stands out clearly in my mind. A crust of bread and a kiss was my breakfast as I ran across the road to St Saviour’s, at the age of five. When I got to school, there was placed before me a white mug of hot milk and a bun; it looked very big. I couldn’t believe it was for me. I looked up, and there was a big fat man in black, with a funny hat looking down at me. He had a big face with a double chin; he was smiling; it was a lovely face. The man put his hand on my head and said, simply: ‘Eat.’ That was Father Dolling, and I think I have felt that touch ever since.
– Father Joe, The Autobiography of Joseph Williamson of Poplar and Stepney
We need those smiles, that deep, practical love that shows the Face of the Lord. May you experience that love of God this Christmas. May you pass it to others.
We are making some changes at NECN to help us increase the amount we can do and to make us more effective. This post is to update you on this and to ask if you can play a part.
People. Andy Delmege has stepped aside from our Board and is now our Executive Director. Our funding from Allchurches Trust means he is able to give two days a week to NECN and is concentrating on building up and supporting a national network of Estates and Urban Groups.
Christine McAteer is our half time Support Officer, ensuing that everything happens behind the scenes.
We have a new Chair and Vice Chair. Lynne Cullens is our Chair. Lynne is Rector of Stockport & Brinnington and a member of the C of E’s Selection Oversight Group, Estates Evangelism Task Group and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Local Community. A former CEO, she was born in Ordsall, Salford and blogs on issues of culture and the Church at lynnecullens.com.
Sara Barron is our Vice Chair. Sara is an accredited Baptist minister and until recently she has had a pioneering ministry on a large council estate near Portsmouth where she lived for 16 years. Sara is a trustee of Incarnate Network, NECN and Estates Evangelism Taskgroup. Sara works half time as development worker for CURBS, which resources, trains and supports children’s workers in urban and estate areas. Having recently moved to Looe in Cornwall Sara is spending a year of missional listening in this new context before embarking on pioneer ministry in Looe. Sara is married to Barney, also a Baptist minister, and they have four children.
In order to work effectively, NECN is structuring itself around a number of Workstreams. These are:
Groups; Partnerships; Resources (responsible for conferences, scoping resources, commissioning where there are gaps); Finance and Fundraising; and Communications.
Each one of these will be Chaired by someone who attends NECN Trustee meetings, and will meet several times a year, usually by phone or skype.
Each Workstream will be responsible for deciding how it will contribute to delivering the NECN Vision and Strategy.
In a year, we will review whether we have capacity to open new Workstreams around Children and Young People; Leadership; and Planting and Pioneering.
Playing a Part.
We need people who have estates and estate churches on their hearts, who have experience and skills, and who have time and commitment, to play a part in this. This is an important role in seeing estates enabled to become fully alive in Christ and in ensuring that there is a thriving, growing, loving church on every significant social housing estate in the country
If you feel drawn to helping NECN in this way, or can recommend someone who can help, please contact Christine on 0121 426 0436 or email@example.com and please keep us in your prayers.
When we were drawing up our Mission Action Plan (MAP) for St Luke’s Downham we were eager to follow the example of St Luke and include something about health and healing. So it came as an answer to prayer when, entirely unprompted by us, a retired nurse contacted us to introduce Parish Nursing Ministries.
Right from our first meeting with the team from Parish Nursing Ministries UK (PNMUK) we could see how amazing a project this was and the kingdom impact it could have in our parish. St Luke’s is part of the Catford and Downham Team located on the Downham Estate, an inter-war garden estate which is in the top 10% most deprived parishes in the UK. As with many areas affected by poverty there are all sorts of issues with mental health struggles, understanding medication, and accessing services, etc.
We originally explored establishing the project with a volunteer nurse, but our volunteer nurse had to cease due to health issues, so we decided to explore options for a paid nurse and were successful in obtaining funding to recruit for 8 hours a week.
The project launched in April 2019 and our Parish Nurse, Becky, has already become a key member of our team and is seeing a steady stream of people. She is a regular attender at the Front Room Club, our drop in for people who are isolated and struggling with mental health difficulties, and at the Food Bank. The support, encouragement and training from PNMUK has been brilliant and invaluable.
Becky writes the following about her ministry:
“With a background working on inner city estates as a district nursing sister, I was not surprised by either the stark poverty or the warm hospitality of the services users I’ve encountered since starting parish nursing. However, the most rewarding part of the work is the ongoing relationships that can be developed as there is no limitation to number of consultations or sticking to one health problem or condition. This is incredibly rewarding for me and effective for the service user as it enables a holistic view of their health, mental, physical, social and spiritual.
The food bank provides different challenges, including helping people in temporary accommodation struggling to access a GP, people in mental health crisis precipitated by sudden financial hardship or relationship breakdown who don’t know what help is available, as well as help with hospital letters for those with low literacy levels. Many service users are distrustful of the NHS or struggle to keep appointments due to chaotic lives, so my presence provides approachable health advice and signposting in a non-health service context.”
I would not hesitate to recommend a partnership with Parish Nursing Ministries UK to any estate church looking to reach out to and serve their community through health ministry. Funding to set up the project can be obtained from the Cinnamon Trust Micro Grants scheme, amongst other grant making groups.
Rev. Nick Walsh
Team Vicar, St Luke’s and St Mark’s Downham, Diocese of Southwark