Ground Level Unemployment Support

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At Jericho, we support people, marginalised by society, overcome barriers to become fulfilled at work and in life.

Currently, across our nation, we face rapidly rising levels of unemployment with a massive hit on 16-24 yr olds, huge competition for every job, and increased risk of long-term unemployment for lower-skilled and older job-seekers.

Our Ignition programme aims to help fulfil the growing need for grassroots, community-based employment support. It is delivered through partnerships with local churches and community organisations, where we provide training for volunteers and a comprehensive resources manual that can be used in different settings.

We expect to see high numbers of people requiring extra support to enter or re-enter a shrinking jobs market, along with the need for other support as a growing number of people face the financial, emotional, mental and physical effects of redundancy and unemployment. With all this happening and various levels of restrictions, fewer people will be walking into a job club to seek help at this time, so we need to think differently.

We’re developing employment support guides and workbooks that will give churches the opportunity to offer remote support until things change. These will be ready soon.

Many people will not know where to turn and a timely intervention could make all the difference. A simple, structured conversation could help somebody take stock of their present situation then start to turn things around. A chat could start a life-changing journey.

We are also developing training and resources to provide tools, techniques and resources that will help with the conversation.

If you would like to know more, please call Dave Chapman, Church Partnership Manager, on 07850 603969, or email

Who’s who @NECN

Introducing Emma Ash – Trustee

Emma Ash

From living in a high-rise building in Hong Kong and travelling back to the U.K. staying with my Mum in her council flat, trying to discern my calling, I ended up writing a piece for the Church Times on the financial barriers that ordination places onto the work-class. Andy Delmege emailed and soon I was invited onto the NECN trustee board.

Three years have now passed, and the majority of that time has been spent in London working for the Church on two different housing estates, one Evangelical and another, Anglo-Catholic. Here new ministries were launched and people came to faith. Ecumenicalism remains at the heart of NECN and I believe  it is vital as we continue to build worshipping communities across England and Wales. I’ve not long completed a year with the Community of St Anselm, Lambeth Palace and have a passion to see more partnerships made for the glory and kingdom of God.

*Photo taken by the Community of St Anselm, Lambeth Palace.

Church-Related Community Work (CRCW)

Steve Summers

CRCW is a recognised ministry in the United Reformed Church (URC), initiated 40 years ago, with an equal status and terms of settlement to the ‘normal’ ministry of Word and sacraments. CRCWs are called by God, professionally trained and qualified in community development work and theology, and then commissioned to work in partnership with local people, churches and other agencies in order to work together towards more flourishing neighbourhoods and communities and ‘life in all abundance’.

With ecumenism in the DNA of the URC, it’s not just URC members who may become an accredited CRCW.
Between them, CRCW’s enable churches to widen their mission by:

identifying local assets and opportunities;

  • confronting injustice;
  • organising community action;
  • developing and supporting initiatives that improve the lives and wellbeing of local people;
  • and theologically reflecting upon that action.

Steve Summers, Development Worker for CRCW in the URC, promotes and supports CRCW ministry around Britain, relying upon networking and partnership-building approaches to enhance what the URC can offer and to contribute to wider community mission and ministry initiatives.

He emphasises that,
‘Alongside (of course!) NECN, my current ‘top 3’ partner agencies who provide invaluable stories and resources to encourage and inspire community presence and engagement are:

HeartEdge (,

Together for the Common Good (

and Urban Life (

I’d recommend to anyone working on estates to check out what they’re offering.’

There are also plenty of stories from CRCWs about their work and ministry accessible at:
and in a future newsletter we’ll hear more about the community ministry training that’s available for anyone to study.

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 

Estate Priest Pam Howell

Story of the Little Free Pantry

Little Free Pantry

By Maria Lee, URC Church-Related Community Worker, Chelmsford

People on the North Avenue estate faced uncertainty. After 90 years of working with local people, North Avenue United Reformed Church closed (as a church) in 2018. Not long after the closure they were informed by Food Bank Chelmsford that North Avenue Christian Centre (NACC) was going to be closed as a distribution centre. The Jubilee Community Café (JCC) team, who worked with Food Bank Chelmsford at NACC, were very disappointed by this final decision.

North Avenue is one of the most so-called ‘deprived areas’ in Chelmsford. People’s needs for basic foods and personal care items are high. Following the closure of the Food Bank, people on the estate carried on knocking on the NACC’s door to get foods and essential goods. The JCC team did as much as they could by serving hot meals at a reasonable price twice a week at NACC. Nevertheless, I wanted to tackle the poverty-related social issues such as child poverty, hardship in lone parent households and mental health-related isolation. The team and I were keen to find effective ways of continuing to support people on the estate.

After a long discussion with the team, I found an interesting project called the Little Free Pantry (LFP). It began in 2016 in the United States. I contacted the founder, Jessica McClard who kindly explained how she started the project. LFP is a grassroots initiative and the concept is free for anyone to implement in whatever way they choose. I told Jessica about North Avenue’s situation and she encouraged me to adapt the LFP for our own context.

The LFP at North Avenue is for neighbours helping neighbours. If you have an extra tin of soup, you can leave it in the pantry, and then someone who needs the soup can take it. It is simple; you do not need to bring a voucher and there is no time limit to using the pantry. You can access it whenever you want to.

During the planning stage, concerns were raised about the possible misuse of the pantry, vandalism, for example and the potential for it to be used as a drug box, since the area has some drug-related issues. Although these are legitimate concerns, it was reassuring to find that during the three weeks prior to the launch day, the prepared space was not damaged at all. We had a launch event with local residents and church members. I shared the passage, from 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, about generous giving. A blessing was made over the pantry and we left the shelves full of useful items.

I went back the following day and was surprised to find the pantry was almost empty. I found an envelope in the back of the shelf which said, ‘Thank you’ and there was £1 coin in it. I felt overwhelmed. I am convinced that this kind of gesture shows a little step forward towards building a happier community and how to live more co-operatively.

When I discussed this new initiative with the JCC team, we decided to use Butterflies as a symbol for the LFP. The story of how the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly is a metaphor for the process of transforming states of consciousness from one dimension to another.

I pray that the LFP at North Avenue may be used as a tool for transforming an area where, in spite of poverty, people care for one another, give generously and develop a positive sense of community.

Please check the website below, if you would like to know more about the Little Free Pantry project.

Upcoming church and community events

United Reformed Church

A number of great events hosted by The United Reformed Church are coming up in the next month or so, including the use of church buildings in the community, Black History Monthly and online discipleship. Please do share these with anyone you feel would be interested.

‘Building for the Future’: 3pm April 19th

An online conference to consider the strategic use of church buildings for mission and community engagement. We’re supporting the URC Church Buildings Forum with this event, which will include a keynote address by John Bradbury, a presentation by HeartEdge and examples of creative use of church buildings and assets. Please email: to register and receive the details.

More details can be downloaded on URC Buildings Forum Zoom Conferencev2

Black History Monthly

Black Lives Matter

As disciples of Jesus, being anti-racist must surely be a fundamental part of who we are. We cannot wait until Black History Month in October to explore this. We need to constantly open ourselves to growing and learning. As such, we will dip into Black History every month during 2021, in URC Black History Monthly, a one-hour conversation on the third Monday evening of every month at 7.30pm on Zoom where we’ll all be encouraged to review a film, book or other resource for ourselves, before coming together to share an hour’s discussion, exploring and teasing out how it affects all of us in our situations and settings today. More information can be found on the URC’s website.

Online Discipleship Sessions 

What does living the life of Jesus today look like online? It’s great that worship, fellowship and other important elements of the Christian faith can happen virtually, but how do we use technology to take us deepen our relationships so we can help each other walk the way of Jesus on a daily basis? The Walking the Way Steering Group wants to set up a network of people from across the URC to explore this further. To start off, they’d like to invite you to attend a Zoom session to think about what we mean by ‘discipleship’, what’s already happening with faith development online and how can we take things forward into more intentional community building.

If this is something you, or someone from your church/network/area of work might be interested in, they’d be grateful if you or they could e-mail to receive a Doodle poll link to secure some dates/times for these sessions.

Church on the Edge Sessions

Knackered, Jaded, Scunnered? What word would you use to describe how you’re feeling right now? The times we live in are very strange. There are lots of difficult emotional, physical, social and economic challenges at the moment, which affect absolutely everyone in ways we could never have imagined beforehand. There are major, unanswerable questions about the long-term impact this will have, and where we go from here. If you need a space to meet with others, to be open and honest about this difficult situation, and to seek support from each other in living through these challenging times, then e-mail to sign up for the first of three monthly Zoom sessions, brought to you by the URC’s ‘New Reality Same Mission’ group that Marie, Simon & myself are part of, on Thursday 1 April at 2pm.

In this opening session, we will be joined by Al Barrett and Ruth Harley, co-authors of ‘Being Interrupted: Reimagining the Church’s Mission from the Outside, In’ to help us think about what God wants of us in the midst of everything that has interrupted normal life in these bizarre times.

Reimagining the Church's Mission from the Outside, In

Who’s who @NECN

Over the coming months we are going to take a look at who the Trustees of NECN are, their passions, their skills and what they get up to in and out of NECN.

If you would like to get more involved, feel you have passion or skills which could be useful please do get in touch. We have work streams as well as trustee opportunities.

Introducing Robb Sutherland – Trustee

Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth in North Halifax.

I spent my first three years as the first-time vicar of an estates church feeling quite isolated.  I was surrounded by ministers who were having completely different experiences to mine.  My colleagues are wonderfully supportive but my experience doesn’t easily correlate to that of The Minster.  I was introduced to NECN by a chance encounter a few years ago.  Discovering this network of people who share a similar life and growing a local network of practitioners, lay and  ordained has been an empowering experience.

I grew up in a mining family and married the vicar’s daughter of an estates church in Leeds.  That church community taught me the Christian faith and the love and generosity that truly comes from people who have little but give everything.  In hindsight it was probably inevitable that once ordained I would follow the call to a similarly wonderful estates church parish with all of our ups and downs.  It is my hope that in the coming years that NECN will grow as a supportive community, as well as a becoming a national voice for people on the margins.
Robb is a trustee of NECN and a member of the Estates Evangelism Task Group as part of Renewal and Reform.  He blogs at

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

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


Estates at Advent 2020

Estates at Advent
Weoley Castle, Birmingham


We may be locked down but let’s open up the beauty of estate churches. We want to create an Advent Calendar featuring different estates for each day. If you want to take part email with a photo from your estate or church, the name & town of your estate for #EstatesatAdvent
If you are on Twitter let us know your hashtag and if on Facebook the name of your page so that we can tag you when your photo is posted!
Photos can be autumnal or wintery, feature decorations, crib scenes, estate lights, tattooed Santas – you name it, we’d love to see it. We’d also love to see any funny or happy photos too. Remember, all photos featuring people can only be shown with their consent and adults need to sign a safeguarding form from your church before we can use any photos featuring children.


Managing a changed financial landscape in 2020

CAP logo

2020 has been a year for polarising the rich and the poor. Those who are in well-paid jobs and who are able to work from home saved 8.6% of their income in the first three months of 2020 according to Christians Against Poverty.

Sadly, those who are the lowest earners and the under-30s have been left struggling financially in the wake of COVID-19. From this group 37% say they’ve eaten less than normal, and 31% have reduced the number of showers or baths they’re taking.

The Cap Money Course

Christians Against Poverty are offering free online courses that meet weekly for 6 weeks. These courses aim to teach budgeting skills and help people to face the reality of what is coming into their bank account and what is going out. Having more control over finances can help to prevent debt and encourages people to save where possible.

To find out more visit