There’s a great film here of the wonderful local leadership carried out by Dot and Ann at St Edmund’s, Tyseley in Birmingham
As part of the Allchurches Trust Grant to build national support for Estates Ministry, we have two local Leadership Pilots beginning, one in London and one in Birmingham.
The Birmingham Pilot began last night with 17 people from outer estate and inner city anglican parishes gathering for a Learning Group that will Deepen Formation and Leadership.
The London Pilot begins soon – click here for details.
The Pilots are quite different and there will be a deep evaluation of them carried out by Church Army. We hope that this will be of value to the wider Church, and that all denominations will find ways of enabling people on estates to express all their gifts.
We know that local leadership is one of the key themes for estate churches. Our National Conferences next year will explore this. Details of dates and venues coming soon.
Please pray for all those involved in the Learning Pilots.
Dave Champness asks:
As part of some research for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Housing Commission, I was wondering whether you have experience (good/bad/neutral) of church leaders/members being active members of tenants and residents groups on estates? If so, please would you send me details (email@example.com)
Church of England Birmingham and NECN member Pauline Weaver have produced an excellent resource pack to help Churches respond to knife crime, with a request that every Church in Birmingham promotes awareness of knife and violent crime on a Sunday.
You can read and download the pack here.
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.
Here is a really beautiful story of a transformed estate church and transformed lives:
Jill MacDonald, Minister-in-Charge of St James’ Church Rounds Green, on the Lion Farm estate, Dudley
‘People thought that the place was shut for years. The grass wasn’t mowed. The glass in the doors had been broken so many times that they were boarded up. The windows were opaque glass with wire over them. However much we cleaned, it looked grotty. It was vile.
They know it’s open now! I mow the grass every week and that enables me to say “hi” to everybody as they go past.
We have always been a church with absolutely no money. We had £1,000 in the bank. We took out a loan to redecorate and applied for lots of grants. Painting the church has made such a difference. The whole feel of the place lifted people’s spirits. I’ve even put pink chandeliers in the toilets, and you don’t see that often. They’re a real talking point.
It’s a hard patch. There’s a lot of apathy, drug abuse, financial problems. But now we have a friendly face and there are people coming in. The hall is booked every night.
We will never be a massive, humungous church, but we have grown. There used to be a time when I thought, “Why would I invite anyone to come?” But now I don’t mind inviting people.
We used to get lots of graffiti and broken windows on a regular basis, and dog muck on the grass. That’s very rare now. It’s almost like God has put angels round it. People have seen that it’s cared for and looked after, and they have responded.
The church has a future that I could never have imagined. The fellowship here have a confidence in sharing their faith. We take the love of God to those around us in whatever way we can.’
Barbara, member of the congregation
‘When I first came to St James’, I was a heavy drinker and gambler and I was getting loans every week for my drinking and gambling, but I couldn’t afford the loans. I had big debts: hundreds and hundreds of pounds from door-to-door loans.
Drink blocked out memories. The more I drank, the more it blocked them out. But I’d been to Sunday School as a child. Later in life, one of my twin daughters died. The vicar who did her funeral was very nice. I realised that this [church] was where I belonged. So, I turned up one Sunday and thought I’d sit at the back, do the service and go. But people opened up their arms to me. It was “wow”.
When I first came, I had long uncombed hair, and everything I wore was black. I never knew how to dress. I never knew about hygiene.
My family are worse than you can dream. This is my family now. This is where I’m happy. I’m not scared any more. I don’t need the booze now. I thought I was nothing, but I’m as important to God as the next person.’
Andy Delmege, Urban Estates Missioner
‘The estates are one of the more socially and economically challenged part of the country and if we are not present in vital ways in the estates, then we have lost the gospel of Jesus’ heart for people in situations in poverty, which was so much at the heart of his life and message.
It is vital that people on estates such as Lion Farm realise their worth in Christ. Everybody is our sister and brother, especially those who are in more challenging situations. So it is important that the church is there, helping people.’
Read more of this story by clicking here.
We are delighted to announce that this summer we were granted funding from the Allchurches Trust for our work. This is about connecting churches with their communities, particularly on the estates.
Allchurches Trust is one of the UK’s largest grant making charities. The Trust funds all kinds of churches and community organisations, especially people in need. Applications are particularly welcome from churches on the estates and in the inner cities.
We’ve been running a Café Church in the Parish of the Risen Lord in Preston, a typical inner-city parish, since October 2018. I had arrived as vicar of the parish and was impressed with the weekly Work Club which was hosted by one of our churches, St Matthew’s Mission, and had been run by a group of keen church members for some 5 or 6 years, During that time they had formed some good friendships with many of the clients. The group were keen to introduce these people to Jesus and a few years ago they began a home group with the aim of inviting Work Club clients along. This didn’t really take off and so In June 2018 we discontinued a small Sunday morning congregation at St Matthew’s Mission and launched our mid-week Café Church in the same place where Work Club meets. We thought it would be easier for Work Club clients to come to familiar premises.
Café Church meets at 7pm on a Wednesday evening and is very informal. We start with a meal, move into introductory discussion about some life experience or another which opens up the theme for the evening. The theme has often been the Bible passage which was the basis for the previous Sunday’s sermon or at times we have used the ‘Unlock The Bible’ material. There is no sermon as such, but rather discussion, feedback and summing up by the leader. We tend not to use too much printed material and rely often on the Lumo Gospel Dramas which we download from Youtube. For the first couple of months we had just 2 or 3 work club or fringe members attending, but over the winter these dropped off and for around 6 months almost the only attendees were church members with numbers as low as about 8. We thought that the weather probably was the main deterrent! But we persevered and over the last couple of months numbers have steadily increased to around 14-16 with around half of them non-church people. So, just at the moment we are feeling encouraged as fruit now seems to be coming from this ministry. Please pray for us! Thank you.
– Alastair McHaffie