Estate churches are fragile communities, especially at the moment in the financial crisis brought on by COVID-19. With regulations and the pandemic situation changing day-by-day now might be a good time to pause and reflect.
How has your church community responded to the pandemic? What has this experience been like for you and for others? What has the experience revealed about inequalities and the structures of our society? Where is God in the experience? How might God be calling us to respond?
These questions are based on the structure of estates practitioner Laurie Green’s Pastoral Cycle:
You can hear Laurie Green explain more about the process of getting stuck in and doing theology by clicking on the highlighted words above. Doing theological reflection always starts from experience.
A similar cycle of reflection, Gibbs Reflective Cycle, is explained in the video below by a German teacher who reflects on her experience of teaching German in a Spanish school. The starting point is grounded in experience, reflecting upon it, analysing it from different perspectives and coming up with a plan of action. This in turn leads to a new experience, further exploration, further analysis and refining the action plan.
An important point to note is that reflecting on experience involves listening to others as well as oneself, not diving straight into action. Another point to remember is to see the gifts that the people in your community already have, not just the difficulties that your community has to live with.
Despite our technology, wealth, and 21st Century ‘know how’ we’ve been humbled by a virus, like an elite Premier League Football Club knocked out of the FA Cup by a team no one has heard of.
How did this happen, how can we get rid of it, when will it end, how is it going to affect my future are legitimate questions.
At Jesus Shaped People we felt there is another important question: What is God saying to the churches?
This ‘liminal space’ is a teaching moment, the spectre of suffering, death, economic meltdown, loss, and acute anxiety has at least temporarily arrested our attention and captured collective imagination. To try and help churches we have created a resource that is not an answer, but rather a tool to gather around this question; ‘What is God saying to the Churches?
‘Stay Alert to the Spirit’ (SATS) is a 7 week resource that includes material/ideas for worship, small groups, sermons, and intergenerational worship and teaching. It can be used in buildings or on line and offered free of charge.
For further info contact: Brendan Bassett 07470136193 email@example.com
Joe Hasler is a priest and former community worker who has lived and worked on estates for many years. He blogs about his experience and has created resources on his website http://www.joehasler.co.uk/
Joe has written a reflection paper to indicate his desire to be engaged in a social evangelisation, alongside his desire for a prayerful and contemplative life.
He also reflects on the way COVID-19 has shaped church communities, discipleship and leadership.
The paper is entitled ‘Making Space for all God’s Children’.
If you would like to read Joe’s thoughts the link is:
English My Way is a programme designed specifically for people living in the UK, whose English language abilities are below Entry Level 1.
The aim is to help adults who have very little or no English language skills to become a part of their local communities. The course can be taught through a mix of tutor-led sessions, on-line learning and a volunteer group activity. You can read more about English My Way here.
There are all sorts of teaching and learning materials including lesson plans, flashcards, assessments and short videos of everyday scenarios. These can be downloaded on https://www.englishmyway.co.uk/teaching-materials
Topics include the neighbourhood, catching a bus, a child’s school, looking after your health, phoning an ambulance, going to the dentist and going to a job interview. The situations are very practical. For example, one video is about learning how to return a faulty product from the market.
Now that some churches are getting the hang of using Zoom, it would be possible for a tutor to teach remotely too if necessary. The courses can be run at a pace suitable for the local group.
Finally from the English My Way blog page look out for the lovely video of an enterprising Muslim lady and her friend who prepare their market stall for the first time and use their language skills to interact with the customers. There are lots of other video stories on the blog too.
Are you thinking about learning something new whilst at home during the pandemic? Would you be interested in deepening how to explain the Christian faith to people who are not Christian?
Apologetics is the use of reasoned arguments to justify beliefs. Christianity has a long tradition of apologists who have defended the faith.
Biola University in the United States offer on-line courses, seminars seminars and training on the Christian faith. There is a free demonstration lecture on Arguments for the Existence of God which can be downloaded from the website by following the link above.
The Certificate in Christian Apologetics can be studied by anyone from any educational background. Each course comes with recommended reading and assignments which can be completed at your own pace.
This course reflects the perspective of traditional Christianity but its not about using circular arguments to assert the existence of God or merely stating an opinion. Its about looking at the use of reasoned arguments to make a claim.
Even if you decide that this course is not for you or someone you know, you might find it worthwhile to listen to the demo lecture to learn how to build a theological argument or how to evaluate the strength of different arguments. Its also a handy way to introduce an aspiring student to a university lecture in a different part of the world at a time where campus visits are not possible.
For more details about the courses visit http://watch.biola.edu/certificate-in-christian-apologetics
This Friday we introduce the blog of estates priest and practitioner, Joe Halser at http://www.joehasler.co.uk/
Joe grew up in a working class area in South London and worked for 17 years as a community development worker and has been an Anglican priest for 25 years on estates in Birmingham, Essex, Liverpool and Bristol. His Masters research is on Mission and Working Class Culture.
Firstly, there is a lot of rich reflection from Joe on the experiences of people in his community in Lockleaze, Bristol, as people gradually discern their gifts and what God is calling them to do. The documents on Joe’s reflections can all be downloaded from his website. An example you might want to look at here is
1. Accidental beginnings lead to core issues This document tells the story of how the community began to identify the first of its local leaders. The other documents reflect on whether this process was specific to that particular estate or whether it was a journey that other parishes and communities could consider adopting or learning from.
Ideas for Liturgy and Learning on Estates
Joe generously shares plans he has developed for services which can take place outside the church building and are physically interactive. These can be found by clicking here.
He has also developed a Christian Basics course specifically for people on estates. He sensitively points out barriers to learning such as negative experiences at school and has designed the resources so that they can be accessed by anyone who has difficulty with reading. The focus is very much on the physical presence of Jesus. These can be downloaded here.
Theological Models of Community Development
If you are a community worker or church leader on an estate you might want to take a look at Joe’s Theological Resources for Community Development
The brilliant thing about these papers is that Joe links perspectives drawn from liberation, feminist and Black theology to reflections on real experiences of communities working together to address serious issues. He goes into thorough detail about the reasons why concerns from people on estates have not been listened to by the local council and how people respond. An example is when children are seriously hurt and hospitalised by fast moving traffic on a dual carriageway.
The hope is that despite the injustice of power structures which appear to brush the cry of the poor under the carpet, changes can be made because people have risen up and asked for basic human rights like road safety and adequate housing to be taken seriously.
For anyone who sees their role in the community as a calling and a ministry, not just as a job or a place where they happen to be living, there is much food for thought in Joe’s writing to chew on.
Today’s financial news make for gloomy reading. Not only has the UK suffered the worse recession in the G7 nations, it is also the worse recession in UK history. The news is grim for employment too, with thousands of workers being laid off or taking voluntary redundancy in the wake of COVID-19.
Financial security in these times can feel like walking on shifting sands day by day. As revealed by the Joint Public Issues Team, it is the poor who are being hit the hardest. The number of children being fed by foodbanks has more than doubled during lockdown.
A double-whammy of austerity measures, cuts in public spending, and the rise of the gig economy have not helped. With the rise of firms like Uber, the burden of risks and costs have been shifted from the employer to the worker,who is classed as self-employed. A good critique of businesses who view technology as a means of making profit with no sense of social responsibility can be read in last week’s Church Times article here.
So what can we as Christians do about this?
It may feel that we are losing power as big corporations increasingly seem to influence national policies and what the government decides to spend its money on.
However, there is hope that things can change and we do have power to make that change from the grassroots.
Your Faith Your Finance
Step 1 – get yourself informed!
Your Faith Your Finance is an excellent website which explains the ethical and spiritual issues around the use of money. It does not recommend specific ways of saving money or financial products. For example, do you want to avoid a bank that invests in products and businesses you consider to be unethical, or do you wish to save with a bank that supports ethical businesses? Or would you apply a mixed approach?
Step 2 – money talks
Think before you buy. Are you aiming to support local shops? Do you feel you have a duty to buy fairly traded products to support poorer countries? What impact does what you buy have on the environment or the well-being of the supplier? Like it or not destruction to God’s creation and poverty are linked together. More questions to think about can be found here.
Step 3 – help your neighbour out of poverty
1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Do you know anyone who is worried about their finances or is burdened with debt? There are some great Christian organisations like Christians Against Poverty that have experts who can help. You can read more about them in our blog on Christians Against Poverty.
We can use our voice, our spending power and our vote to make a difference. There is hope. We have changed our spending power to make positive changes before. For example, over the last 10 years the production of goods containing CFCs which harm the ozone layer have dropped.
Changes to how we spend our money can be made. There is hope.
If you are using August to plan discipleship courses for September in your church or community, the uncertainty of COVID-19 certainly makes things more complicated!
Don’t panic, there are all sorts of free learning resources out there and help is at hand. The Bible Society distributes free Bibles all over the world and provides lots of excellent resources for Bible study.
People can sign up for all kinds of study courses with the Bible Society, depending on what you need. Courses vary from a structured course called, ‘The Big Picture’, a Bible Study group, daily reflections and the #SheToo podcasts which explore violence against women in the Bible from a range of different perspectives.
For children there are the Bible bedtime apps and loads of free videos to help teenagers and young people engage with the Bible. Reel Issues is a free resource exploring links between themes in films, the Bible and everyday life.
If you would prefer not to do all your praying in front of a computer screen or with your phone free materials can be posted to you too. These include a free devotional learning journal.
Why not visit https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/ and find out more about the Bible Society!
Care for the environment may have slipped a little below the media radar during the pandemic but this does not mean that climate change has been reversed or gone away. Despite the fact that travel has been greatly reduced at this time, summer temperatures in parts of the northern hemisphere have reached record highs this year. Recently Canada’s last remaining ice shelf collapsed.
So what can we do about this?
If you or your church cares about God’s creation you might want to take a look at the free films and leaders notes that are available on the Catholic Faith Exploration website by clicking here. These films have been produced by CaFE on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the
care of creation.”
Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si – Care for Our Common Home’, June 2015.
The videos are designed to be shared in Catholic Churches but can be used by any church group concerned about our planet Earth. A practical leaflet produced to accompany the course can be downloaded on this link How to care for our planet Earth
What is CaFE?
Catholic Faith Exploration runs DVD based courses designed to help people explore their faith in a relaxed, cafe-style setting. The idea is that hospitality will enable people to feel welcomed and able to talk about their faith with others. During the pandemic whilst it is not possible to meet physically the films can be downloaded and shared remotely at a cost of £20. You can find out more here.