Monthly Archives: October 2011

Beyond Individualism

The European Christian Political Movement is hosting a two day colloquium and conference on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November 2011.  Entitled ‘Beyond Individualism: Why Civil Society Needs Christian Political Engagement’, the Friday will be a study day aimed at leaders in policy, politics, advocacy and academia, and the Saturday will be a broader conference considering issues facing Europe and how Christian thought might offer a response.

Speakers over the two days include Maurice Glasman (a Fellow of CTC), Philip Blond, Os Guinness, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, and a number of politicians from the continent.

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Four weeks in Somers Town

Dr Dominic Keech, an ordinand at St Stephen’s House, spent four weeks this summer on placement in Fr Jellicoe’s old parish, as part of the Jellicoe Community.  Dominic worked alongside Fr John Caster, who is preaching the 2011 Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford on 23rd October.

In July, I spent four weeks living and working in the Anglican parish of Old St Pancras, based at one of its four churches: St Mary the Virgin, Somers Town. This part of the borough of Camden forms a rectangle lengthways between Euston station and Mornington Crescent tube, bordered at the West by Eversholt Street and at the East by St Pancras International. It grew in the mid-nineteenth century with the train-lines running north. It is now an archetypal inner city hub of shops and offices, high density housing and travel interchange.
Somers Town is better known than the many urban estates which reflect it, perhaps through the documentaries which have told its important history, and the 2008 film Somers Town, by Shane Meadows. In common with much of London at the turn of the twentieth century, Somers Town was a place of condemnable conditions: dilapidated and infested housing, poor sewerage and intense overcrowding. In the 1920s, the remarkable ministry of Fr Basil Jellicoe initiated a scheme of slum clearance, and the foundation of a housing cooperative in which local residents – re-housed in new buildings but within their existing community – could vest their interests. Unlike much of Camden surrounding it, Somers Town remains a place of predominantly social housing, and many of the people who live there are related to the first residents of the St Pancras Housing Society homes.
Fr Jellicoe is symbolic of social action, deeply and stably engaged in a community, which flourishes in real change for people on the ground. It is a model of commitment to community which the parish of Old St Pancras (which also includes St Michael’s Camden Town, St Paul’s Camden Square and St Pancras Old Church) continues to take seriously. It is an inalienable part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition of those churches, which believes the Incarnation and the Sacraments of the Church are here to catalyse change in the world, and not only adorn it.
The parish has been involved in the foundation of North London Citizens from its outset, and established a listening campaign within its four churches early in 2011. The issue which surfaced most pressingly in those conversations was housing: as a basis for stable community for everyone, but particularly for the elderly and infirm; for vulnerable adults; for unrepresented and transient immigrants, and for low income families. This concern presented itself most consistently in Somers Town, where peoples’ homes are administered by housing associations, and the borough council.
I was invited to come to St Mary’s by its priest, Fr John Caster, and the Rector of the parish, Fr Philip North. They asked me to build in some way on their listening campaign, by hearing myself what was concerning people, and relating it to the bigger picture of social housing policy in a time of considerable political change. My time in the parish was split between investigating the history and current state of Somers Town’s housing stock, local government housing policy, and national plans laid out in the Welfare Reform and Localism bills; and listening to people talk about their housing situations.
Both national and local policy promise to change the way social housing is funded in a very radical way. This in turn will have an effect on the way housing associations and councils set rent levels – to perhaps as high as 80% of the market rate, an impossible increase for lower and even middle income households in urban areas. Inner London estates, in close proximity to high-cost private housing, are therefore in a highly compromised position. If welfare reform reduces the level of Housing Benefit without regard for local variations in real housing cost, this looks set to impact some of the most vulnerable people in our cities. I produced a detailed discussion paper for the parish, which attempted to draw together these different aspects of the housing scene as they are emerging. I hope it will be of use as the Old St Pancras team develops its role in the work of North London Citizens. It was a privilege to be so warmly welcomed by people at St Mary’s, who want to make sure that the inheritance of Jellicoe carries on animating their community to come together, and change things for the better.

October prayer diary

The new academic year brings a number of new staff and interns to the Centre and the Jellicoe community – and we would be grateful for your support for them (and the communities in which they will work) in your prayers:

Tom Daggett continues to work with us as a Jellicoe intern at Stepney Salvation Army, and will combine this with a three day a week role as Centre Manager – working with the Director on our growing range of projects.

Emmanuel Forlemu is a new Jellicoe intern at St Peter’s Bethnal Green, building on some excellent work by our summer interns.  Pray for the growing CITIZENS team at St Peter’s, and the links it is making with tenants and residents associations and other faith groups in the area – as they seek to make local streets safer, and address the growing drugs problem in the area.

Caitlin Burbridge will be our first Global Action intern – linking community organising in London’s diaspora communities with movements to renew civil society in other parts of the world.

Liliana Worth moves to co-ordinate our growing Oxford Jellicoe Community, as she starts some further research work

Former Jellicoe intern Arabella Milbank and community organiser Ruhana Ali will be working with our Director, Angus Ritchie and Senior Fellow Vincent Rougeau on an exciting new research project funded by the University of Notre Dame – looking at how different faiths and worldviews work together in east London for the common good.

In addition, the Centre is sponsoring a vital piece of work by Alvin Carpio (community organiser in Haringey) looking at the state of civil society, and the causes of the riots, in Tottenham.  Pray for this, and for all the work going into understanding and addressing these causes – and healing the communities affected by the violence.  Pray for the Centre’s staff and partner churches across east London as we seek to do a wider piece of reflection and action in the months ahead.

Please also pray for

…the priestly ministry of our Director, Angus Ritchie – assisting at St Peter’s Bethnal Green, and now also as Chaplain for Social Justice at Keble College, Oxford

Karen Stromberg, a Hackney resident now beginning a two-year MA in Community Organising at Queen Mary University of London with our first ever Jellicoe Bursary

…the process of appointing a new CitySafe worker in Bethnal Green and a Jellicoe intern from one of our partner Pentecostal churches in Newham – both made possible by some successful fundraising (for which we give thanks!)

…the Near Neighbours programme which is gaining momentum, and will be selecting some new interns in the next few months

…Archbishop Rowan’s inter-faith adviser Toby Howarth as he gives the 2011 Presence and Engagement Lecture – and all whom the Presence and Engagement Network seeks to equip for ministry and mission in multi religious contexts