Monthly Archives: July 2011

Three Weeks in Shadwell

Sarah Santhosham (Corpus Christi College, Oxford) returns to East London after undertaking a Living Wage Internship with London Citizens in 2010, and describes her experiences as a Jellicoe intern this summer

Over the last three weeks I’ve been based in Shadwell as a Jellicoe intern, getting to know the local area and people, and participating in the pattern of worship at my host churches (St Mary’s Cable Street and E1 Community Church) and at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine’s. The parish of St Mary’s consists of ethnically and religiously diverse communities, and borders the Ocean Estate in Stepney, one of the largest and most deprived housing estates in Europe. My work within the parish has been focussed on continuing that of previous interns over the last year: primarily, to continue engaging in relational meetings with parishioners and facilitate one-to-one meetings between people with shared concerns in the local community.

Actively engaging in relational meetings and linking people together has served to continue to build networks within the local community, transgressing cultural and religious divides. Although I have previously been involved with the work of London Citizens, at a TELCO Tower Hamlets borough meeting last week I was impressed to see the diverse nature of leaders who were present, spanning different religious backgrounds, including a varied group of religious denominations, representatives from schools and from community groups. Despite the many surface differences between these groups, hearing the specific issues around which people were working together, for example affordable housing and the Living Wage, and perceiving their collective power further emphasised the power of relational meetings as a tool for identifying leaders and their passions, and as a mechanism for bringing people together to effect change for themselves.

Using the tool of relational meetings has been invaluable in my work, together with fellow intern Tom Daggett (based with the Salvation Army in Stepney), to build up a campaign to secure the future of a local playground on the edge of the Ocean Estate. Having identified the lack of youth provisions in an estate where 26% of the population is aged under 15 as a key local concern, we met with local parents and community leaders who were passionate about keeping the playground open as a community asset, since it is one of the few safe and supervised areas in that part of the estate, owing the presence of anti-social behaviour and drug-dealing in neighbouring open spaces. After arranging an open meeting, we were able to organise the collective experience and skills of the group and decide how best to challenge and engage with those who have the power to make decisions about the playground’s future.

Community organising uses the experience of people within a meeting and does not do for others what they can do for themselves. By being placed in Shadwell as a community organiser I have seen how we can act as catalysts for change by bringing a diverse group of people (in terms of experiences and backgrounds) with a shared concern together, and enabling them to take a step into public life as an organised group with power and hold their elected representatives to account.

Will the first be last? New research project announced

At a time of economic turmoil, and political controversy over spending cuts, there is an unusual consensus on the issue of inequality. Politicians and intellectuals across the political spectrum agreeing the gap between rich and poor is too wide, and that this ultimately impoverishes all concerned.

The Children’s Society and the Contextual Theology Centre are beginning a year-long consultation – exploring (i) the impact of inequality and the related impact of poverty on children and young people; (ii) a Christian vision of the common good; and (iii) the practical contribution the Church can make to a more just social order. At a time when the Church is being invited to play a greater role in the ‘Big Society’, these are issues on which reflection is much needed.

Will the first be last? will include

– an online conversation, with regular posts on the Faithful Citizens blog

– seminars, reports and articles

– materials for study groups

It will inform the work of The Children’s Society, and of the Contextual Theology Centre and its inner-city partners – Baptist, Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, Pentecostal and Salvation Army congregations.   But we hope the conversation will be of wider relevance to the Church and to all concerned with faith and social justice.

In early September, we will be bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners for a theological consultation – with input from Adam Atkinson, Robert Beckford, Giles Fraser, Ann Morisy, John Milbank and Michael Northcott and Bishops Tim Thornton and David Walker.   Over the next few months, our blog posts will include material preparing for and generated by this event.

By Angus Ritchie, Director

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First two weeks in Bethnal Green

Gina Byrne (LSE) and Andrew Hood (New College, Oxford) describe their first fortnight on a Jellicoe Internship at St Peter’s, Bethnal Green
In the two weeks since we arrived in Bethnal Green, we’ve experienced the full vibrancy and diversity of East London. As Jellicoe interns at St Peter’s Church Bethnal Green, our primary task has been to conduct a listening campaign, particularly focusing on the estates surrounding the church. The core organising technique we have employed is the one-to-one relational meeting. The counterintuitive idea behind such meetings is that they have no agenda beyond a better understanding of the passions and motivations of the other individual. Together we have assembled a map of the relationships, concerns and interests of the local community.
Prominent among those concerns is drug dealing in nearby estates and parks. This trade brings with it anti-social behaviour and a feeling that the community’s ownership of public spaces has been lost. A further worry often expressed is the lack of integration between the different sub-communities of the East End. Whilst the traditional East End dynamic of neighbourliness is far from extinct, there is a desire for both the Asian community and the “Shoreditch Set” to become part of the circle of trust and mutual concern.
Broad-based community organising has proved itself to be a powerful tool in the context in which churches such as St Peter’s work. On the very local level, organising’s focus on the realisation of the common good allows a church in an ethnically and religiously diverse area such as Bethnal Green to speak to all individuals and institutions in the community. The idea of holding power to account through the relational strength of communities and securing concrete improvements really does grab people’s attention in a way that a mere expression of goodwill cannot.
Getting to know the community of Bethnal Green has been an eye-opening experience for both of us. The most valuable aspect of our time here has been a deeper understanding of the complexity of plural society, and how the church in that context can ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7) through building relationships and alliances in the pursuit of justice and the common good.

Praying for the Jellicoe Community

This is one of our regular blogposts of prayer requests for the Jellicoe Community and the wider work of the Contextual Theology Centre

We’re one week into our summer Jellicoe Internship programme – with around a dozen students working in four locations in East London to promote congregational engagement in community organising.  They have certainly hit the ground running, and will be blogging about their work soon!  Please pray for them, and for the communities in which they are working.

In Manor Park, Richard Hill, Alice Kallaugher, Iarla Manny and Nathan Mulcock (all Oxford) are working with our Assistant Director, Fr Sean Connolly, to develop the team engaged in community organising at SS Stepen & Nicholas Catholic Parish, Manor Park – and Nitasha Kadam (Notre Dame) is continuing to help the church develop links with the local Hindu community.

In Shadwell and Stepney, Tom Daggett and Sarah Santhosham (Oxford – both returning after internships last summer) are working with Capt Nick Coke at local Anglican, Baptist and Salvation Army congregations, and Abdi-Aziz Suliman (Sheffield) and Abdul Jama (Oxford) with local mosques, on issues of common concern – including drug-related crime and the state of local parks. 

In Shoreditch, Gina Byrne (LSE) and Andrew Hood (Oxford) are working with the Revd Adam Atkinson at St Peter’s, Bethnal Green (a founder member of Shoreditch Citizens) and Luke Martin (Oxford) is about to join them to work with Gracechurch Hackney – a plant from St Helen’s Bishopsgate

In Hackney, Emma Pritchard and Gregers Bangert (Oxford) are working with ordinand Stephen Parker (St Stephen’s House, Oxford) and Fr Rob Wickham at St John-at-Hackney to engage local shops in the CitySafe campaign.

Two interns are pioneering new parts of the Jellicoe programme – Isaac Stanley (an intern in Manor Park last summer) working is the Congolese community in London, and Dominic Keech (an ordinand at St Stephen’s) bringing the internship home to the Parish of Old St Pancras – which encompasses the church and community in which Fr Basil Jellicoe worked in the 1930s – with Fr Philip North and Fr John Caster.

Please also pray for…

Those co-ordinating the programme – Angus Ritchie, Tom Daggett and Sr Josephine Canny (Chaplain to the interns)

Those involved in the £5m Near Neighbours Programme in the Church of England and Church Urban Fund – of which CTC is the local hub, especially Angus and Susanne Mitchell – and their new colleague the Revd Timothy Clapton, who has been appointed Near Neighbours Co-ordinator for Eastern London.