Monthly Archives: February 2012

Prayer diary: day 8 of Lent

Please pray for S.T.O.R.M a community based organisation in North Battersea which aims were to support single/lone parents and women back into employment, with the motto “Out of the darkness and into the light”.

The name stands for Support, Trust, Opportunity, Rebuilding and Motivation and was founed by Marie Hanson, a single mother living on the estates of North Battersea. Motivated by her own personal experiences, she started the organisation in 2005, as a self help group for single mothers aimed at rebuilding lost self esteem and confidence. Marie found that many of the women and mothers she worked with had been victims of domestic violence, poor educational achievement, unsuccessful relationships and missed life opportunities.

The Church Urban Fund is supporting S.T.O.R.M.’s conference which will support single parents who have suffered domestic violence, and who are facing other difficulties such as financial problems.

Pray also for the Contextual Theology Centre and its work with Citizens UK to develop ‘Joseph Generation’, a programme to develop young leaders from ethnic minorities, working particularly through its partner Pentecostal churches.

An exciting new project – Highway Neighbours

HIGHWAY NEIGHBOURS is an exciting new local church-led initiative which seeks to use the Olympics as an opportunity to engage communities in meaningful relationship. Working in partnership with other faith communities in Shadwell and Wapping, Highway Neighbours seeks to help vulnerable local people during the Olympics. Having identified the following potential challenges; road closures, termination of bus routes, increased traffic, closure of crossings, challenges reaching local mosques for prayer during Ramadan, and a decrease in deliveries, the churches in this area are planning to draw the community together by replacing local practical services which will be withdrawn between July and September.

Step One. Over the next three months, teams of volunteers will take to the streets of Wapping and Shadwell to interview a target number of 2012 local people. The aim? To find out three pieces of information. 1. What practical challenges will arise that we could help you overcome? 2. What activities would you like to take place in your local community during the Olympics? 3. How would you like to be involved in HIGHWAY NEIGHBOURS? Through this process of information gathering, the potential for building authentic relationships and capturing the interests, motivations and desires of local people may be realised. Whether it is constructing mini live sites to watch the games, starting football matches between different faith institutions, delivering meals to those who require it, or photography workshops to gather yet untold local stories, it is hoped that the Highway will be buzzing with activity throughout the summer. Using ideas generated by the community, the project will go beyond the gloss of the ‘national’ Olympics, expanding the excitement created by the games in order to achieve much wider outcomes than intended.

Reflecting on the national rhetoric that the Olympics will be a regeneration scheme, one must question whether this is really achievable without engaging local society. Yet HIGHWAY NEIGHBOURS seeks to regenerate by reflecting what appears to be the original values of the games; those of peace, solidarity and community cohesion. It is striking therefore that this new project is in one of the poorest boroughs of London (Tower Hamlets), and it is civil society who are themselves responsible for broadening the potential of the Olympics, identifying the potential for enhancing the dynamism, capacity, inclusion, and cohesion of Shadwell and Wapping, through hard work, and relationship building. Rather than allowing national activity to dictate vulnerable local society, this is a project which encourages the ‘local’ to engage with the reality of life at the national, and international spheres of society this summer. Authentic regeneration demands that the Olympics achieves its potential by thinking creatively about the complex ways in which international, national, and local forces have the potential to work together for positive development. Let’s hope this is an encouragement to other local communities to grasp the opportunity created by the games in 2012.


To find out more contact Caitlin Burbridge –

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Prayer diary: Day 7 of Lent

Please pray for St Mary’s Church, Battersea – whom the Church Urban Fund is supporting in a community-led response to last summer’s riots. St Mary’s is a member of London Citizens, and has launched a 6 month Community Listening Campaign. There are 8 institutions already involved, from which the listening campaign will be rolled out -listening to young people and adults across the borough. In May 2012, the results and proposed solutions will be presented. There will also be a Youth Leadership Programme, where young people from different congregations will be build relationships with others who are different to them.

The Contextual Theology Centre has also been working with London Citizens on a wider Citizens Inquiry into the riots.  This included an intensive process of listening in Tottenham, where the London riots began.  The community-led inquiry has now reported, and is taking concrete action to rebuild relationships and tackle the root causes of the violence.  Pray for this work, and for work CTC is doing on a London-wide report.

Prayer diary: Day 6 of Lent

Pray for Christ Citadel International Church in Nottingham, and its plans to address a range of issues of deprivation through its Parish Nurse Project. This project will provide pastoral care, advice on health, reassurance, education, support groups, weekly healing services and fellowship, to support deprived groups and bring them into contact with health services. It will be led by a pastor in the church who is a registered nurse, as well as volunteers from the church and other churches who are registered nurses.

Pray also for George Gabriel, a community organiser with Citizens UK, who is working to set up a community organising alliance in the city.  The Contextual Theology Centre was involved in a recent study event for Christian leaders in Nottingham, on the theology and practice of organising.  The Centre has just launched a four-week course on Christianity and community organising, with Bible study and practical exercises for interested congregations.

Second Sunday of Lent: Reflections on the Readings

This Sunday (4 March), the Roman Catholic Lectionary gives us the Gospel of the Transfiguration, about which we blogged earlier.  In the Church of England, the Gospel reading is Mark 8.31-end
Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things …and that he must be killed and after three days rise again… Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of human beings.”
The first section of this reading reinforces last week’s message: Jesus’ ministry is not to be based on grandstanding and wonder-working, but on challenging injustice, and meeting violence with love. For all that he has taught them, the disciples find this an incredibly hard message to digest.  We are constantly tempted to look for glory somewhere else.  Jesus’ teaching and practice reminds us again and again that it is to be found in suffering, self-giving love.
Jesus said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
Dying, we live: this is the paradox at the heart of the Gospel.  In holding power and possessions to ourselves, we cut ourselves off from the greatest gift of all – the koinonia (fellowship) which is at the heart of God, and into which we are invited by Christ’s death and resurrection.  God’s self-offering on the cross gives us both the example and the power to offer ourselves as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12.1).  ‘We love because he first loved us’ – and in so doing, we share the very life of God (2 Peter 1.4)

Prayer diary: Day 5 of Lent

Pray for the work of Host – a charity connected to the

 Nottingham Arimathea Trust, which offers accommodation and support for destitute asylum seekers by matching them up to host families who they can stay with. The Church Urban Fund is supporting the charity so that it can increase the number of hosts, and of volunteers who match hosts and guests.

Pray also for the work of Near Neighbours (Eastern London) – a project run by the Contextual Theology Centre as part of the wider programme to create and deepen relationships across faiths and cultures.  Today, a Near Neighbours Gathering will be held for people in Newham at ARC Pentecostal Church in Forest Gate. 

Prayer diary: Day 4 of Lent

Please pray for Smart Savings Community Interest Company.  It is being partnered by the Church Urban Fund to work with churches in Camborne to deliver a money management course for deprived families. Phase 1 will train 15 volunteers in financial advice, and phase 2 will offer 15 parents the chance to learn about money, debt management, as well as a numeracy qualification.

Pray also for the work Citizens UK and the Contextual Theology Centre as they work together on the Nehemiah 5 Challenge – a campaign which complements the debt counselling work of so many churches up and down the country, by campaigning for an end to exploitative and irresponsible lending.

Dawkins and Williams: No knockout, but a success!

The commentators are unusually united: yesteday’s debate between Archbishop Rowan and Richard Dawkins lacked a ‘knockout punch’. Among colleagues in Oxford, there was general agreement that no-one had a decisive victory.  For all that, Dawkins was the only one who ever found himself on the ropes.  Indeed, there were a few moments when Dawkins seemed more like an undergraduate being probed by a kindly but rigorous philosophy tutor.  At one point, Dawkins was reduced to protesting that he was not, after all, a philosopher.  That invites a question the Archbishop was far too kind to ask: Why, then, does Dawkins feel able to make dogmatic assertions about the philosophical implications of modern science?

A win on points for the Archbishop – indeed anything short of a knockout punch from his opponent – throws serious doubt on Dawkins’ position. Dawkins doesn’t just hold that atheism is, on balance, correct.  His position is that religion is irrational nonsense.  Rowan Williams has never made such dismissive noises about atheism.  The Archbishop admits that there are also intellectual challenges for theism (especially around the problem of evil). Nothing less than a clear win for Dawkins would justify his claim that religion is obvious, demonstrable nonsense. For something to be demonstrable you have to be able to demonstrate it.

So last night represented a significant loss of ground for Dawkins’ polemical brand of atheism. It modelled a very different conversation between these incompatible worldviews – not based on woolly relativism but on rigorous and mutually respectful dialogue.

As I have argued before, Dawkins’ crusade against religion in public life, and his repeated claims that religious people ‘indoctrinate’ children only make sense if belief in God is palpably ludicrous. And whatever else one thinks of last night’s debate, Dawkins failed to justify that claim.

By Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, Director of the Contextual Theology Centre

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Prayer diary: Day 3 of Lent

Please pray for Weston Church Youth Project in Southampton.  This has run at Holy Trinity Church for 19 years – and includes drop-ins, trips, one-to-one support for young people and work in small groups.  The Church Urban Fund is helping it discern the best ways to renew and develop its work for the future.

The Contextual Theology Centre was set up by Christians in London Citizens – the capital’s community organising alliance.  Over the last few months, the alliance’s London 2012 Jobs campaign has secured around 1300 Living Wage jobs for local people at the Olympics.  CTC’s Tom Daggett has blogged on the process before.  On Ash Wednesday, a team of people from our partner churches and other communities in London Citizens were at the Olympic site, both to celebrate this achievement and to explore other ways in which local people could take action to tackle joblessness.  Pray for them as this process moves forward – and for all who live with unemployment.

Choosing our battles with care

The Contextual Theology Centre’s Director Angus Ritchie has just blogged on the Guardian’s Comment is free website – arguing that Christians working for social justice need to be ‘wise as serpents’ as well as having good intentions.  The piece offers London Citizens’ Olympic jobs campaign as an example of such ‘wise’ action (see Tom Daggett’s post on this blog).

Read the article here