A report by the Church Urban Fund and Fresh Expressions Ltd, has highlighted how Christians are making a difference in marginalised communities around the UK.
‘Poverty and Fresh Expressions: Emerging forms of church in deprived communities’, a report written by Helen Cameron of the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology focuses on six key projects, which demonstrate some of the action being taken by Christians to develop new forms of church in deprived urban areas.
The projects, which include two examples from Hull, and one each from London, Bristol, Lancashire and the West Midlands, demonstrate the triumphs and challenges faced by those willing to dedicate themselves to work in tough urban environments.
Some groups declared the importance of establishing a long term committed presence in the areas concerned, with even clergy who stay for around five years being seen as transient.
Others thought that the cost one has to pay for this kind of lifestyle is too high.
One of the key factors brought out in the report, is the necessity of establishing a ‘third place’ which is neither home nor work, where people can gather as equals.
It also highlights the importance of respite, and the need for those involved in working in tough places to have a means of reflecting on their work, perhaps with someone not directly involved in what they do.
Of the six projects highlighted, one particularly clear theme is that of mission through, or mission as, hospitality, with groups either operating cafes or opening up their homes to needy members of their communities.
The report’s authors hope that the research will help urban missionaries, both clergy and laity, as well as institutional structures, to avoid some of the pitfalls and difficulties faced by pioneering workers.
In particular dioceses are urged to ‘ensure effective communication between those officers responsible for Fresh Expressions of Church and those responsible for social justice work in deprived communities,’ and to ‘facilitate networks of practitioners for mutual support and train volunteer facilitators who will work with groups to facilitate theological reflection.’
A full copy of the report, or an abbreviated summary, can be downloaded from the Church Urban Fund website.
February 20th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross