Pope Francis’s new book Let Us Dream will be the basis for an international conference on April 15th 2021. Grassroots leaders, community organisers and academics will gather to take forward the Pope’s remarkable call for the Church to embrace “a politics rooted in the people,” with a focus on broad-based organising and “popular movements”.
The conference will be convened by CTC in partnership with Catholic institutions in the United States, European Union and United Kingdom. It will form part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which empowers low-income people to participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities and nurtures solidarity between people living in poverty and their neighbours.
Austen Ivereigh, who helped Francis compile the book, has said that Let Us Dream contains the clearest endorsement ever by a Pope of broad-based community organising, and the “inclusive populism” it embodies. Dr Ivereigh will give a keynote address at the conference, after which there will be presentations involving grassroots leaders, community organisers and Catholic academics.
The aim of the conference is to help the Church respond at all levels to Pope Francis’ call for engagement with popular movements, and to ensure that such engagement flows from the heart of the Church’s life and prayer.
Alongside CTC and CCHD, conference partners include Caritas Social Action Network (an agency of the Catholic Bishops Conference for England and Wales), Boston College Law School, the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice, the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago, the Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen in Berlin and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Anglo-Irish Province).
The conference will run from 1600 to 2000 UK time (0800 to 1200 Pacific Time, 1700 to 2100 Central European Time) on 15th April 2021. It will be possible to watch and to participate via webchat without any need to register. The conference programme will be available from 26th March on a dedicated conference website – www.letusdreamconference.org
In our eighth Just Church podcast, Froi Legaspi and Tash Jesson talk to Angus Ritchie about the Fair Energy Campaign which has emerged from community organising at St John’s Hoxton
You can catch up on our first seven podcasts here.
Fr Josh Harris, CTC’s project manager for Organising for Growth and Curate at St George-in-the-East reflects on the pandemic as a time of revelation.
Crises force choices.
When we face adversity – whether as individuals, peoples, institutions or nations – we face choices. Scarcity of money, of opportunity, of time or energy, compels us to decide what to act on, where to add what value we can, who we treasure.
In our seventh Just Church podcast – recorded at the end of October – Vanessa Conant, Sara and Graham Hunter and Angus Ritchie discuss the way community organising can help churches in the “long haul” of continuing pandemic restrictions.
Since 2015, CTC has been engaged in a partnership with St George-in-the-East to renew the parish’s life, and to help it renew others, through community organising rooted in prayer and theological reflection. Last week, in a lecture at Ridley Hall in Cambridge, Fr Richard Springer (Rector of St George-in-the-East, and Director of CTC’s Urban Leadership School) and the Revd Alanna Harris (Curate at St George-in-the-East) reflected on the relationship between spirituality and action in the parish’s life.
This week, members of churches and mosques in Shadwell were involved in a unique co-design event. It was the latest stage in an exciting journey of community organising for affordable homes in the area.
Angus Ritchie explains more about the work in a new report by UK Onward and Create Streets on Creating Communities: Places beyond the Pandemic. The full report – which includes a keynote address by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP – is online here. Below, we reproduce Angus’ essay – with a short video telling the story of the co-design process so far…
In our sixth Just Church podcast Paul Amuzie, Sara and Graham Hunter and Angus Ritchie discuss how organising helps churches to develop grassroots leaders and to deepen discipleship – and Angus hears from Erin Clark about how her church is beginning a listening campaign with those involved in a new Foodbank.
In this blog, originally written for the Diocese of London, Richard Springer and Angus Ritchie reflect on the demographics of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the way in which community organising can help the Church’s response to be faithful to the Gospel.
In our fifth Just Church podcast, Shermara Fletcher, Charnelle Barclay and Angus Ritchie discuss the potential – and the reality – of community organising in Pentecostal churches, and the role of organising in the struggle for racial justice. Also, Josh Harris interviews Graham and Sara Hunter about how organising has strengthened St John’s Hoxton.
Even if we would love our church to engage in community organising, it may feel like yet one more thing in an already over-full plate! In our fourth Just Church podcast, Vanessa Conant, Graham Hunter and Angus Ritchie discuss how patient, prayerful organising can add to – rather than deplete – a congregation’s capacity. Also, Angus interviews Shermara Fletcher on patient organising work with and for homeless people.
Our third Just Church podcast is now online. This week, we speak to Vanessa Conant and Graham Hunter about how their churches are responding to the gradual move out of lockdown – and to Richard Springer about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic citizens, and the relevance of community organising to addressing these inequalities.
We’re excited to release the first in a new series of Just Church podcasts – the fruit of a new collaboration between CTC, the Church of England and Citizens UK. You can listen here or find it wherever you get your podcasts from.
CTC’s Congregational Development Learning Communities include Roman Catholic, Anglican, Salvation Army, Baptist and Pentecostal churches. Out of their reflection, prayer and action, some themes are emerging that may be relevant to other churches.
Community organising has had to adapt very quickly to the lockdown. Conversations with lay leaders and clergy in our churches indicate its continuing importance – in particular, the importance of
> Rooting action in attentive listening to the very different situations people are in
> Ensuring the inclusion of people who are not online – or who have less access to, and confidence with, the internet
> Reaching beyond the confines of those already in our congregations, to engage with their practical, social and spiritual needs and gifts
> Rooting everything churches do in prayer and in their wider mission
Laura MacFarlane and Zoe Mathias blog on an exciting weekend coming of vocational discernment which is coming up next month…
God is calling each one of us. Yet in our busy world it can be hard to take time to listen. What does it mean to be attentive to God’s call as we think about our future?
CTC Fellow David Barclay – who co-ordinated our work on responsible finance – blogs on our new report with Durham University on churches, money and debt.
“Any time we talk about money it’s, you know, ‘you should be giving’, and that’s it. Not how should you be living your life, what should you be valuing, where do you put your treasure.”
Angus Ritchie – Director of CTC and Priest in Charge of St George-in-the-East in Shadwell – blogs on a week of events which have cast a new light on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
What is the message of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? When a religious leader asks Jesus: “who is my neighbour?” this story is his answer. And, as so often, his answer is deeply provocative.
The General Election campaign is dominating the news – but many people feel deeply alienated from today’s political discourse. CTC has produced two resources for communities wanting to reflect on the state of politics, and an appropriate Christian response.
Firstly, our Director Angus Ritchie has written for ABC Religion & Ethics, arguing against “[a] conception of how the Church should engage in politics [on which] our main priority should be to get individual Christians into positions of influence, and then to encourage the wider Body to pray for them.” He argues instead that the heart of the Church’s political witness is to be found in the poorest communities:
For Christians, there can be no “we” whose job it is to be nicer to “the poor.” The Church should simply not have a “heart for the poor” or “learn from the most vulnerable.” According to Jesus and St. Paul, the poorest and most vulnerable are the heart of “the Church.”
He argues that Britain’s poorest communities show how the wider Church should respond to our current troubles:
They do not behave as if politics is something which is done somewhere else – something to which they must simply offer a Christian “response.” In consequence, they do not understand their role as being one of simply voting and praying for others. The poorest communities in East London are taking action themselves: organising with their neighbours to ensure new housing developments have affordable homes in them; confronting unjust landlords; campaigning for a Living Wage.
You can read the full essay here.
Alongside this written resource, CTC is hosting a masterclass in community organising by Ernie Cortes – one of America’s most senior and experienced organisers, and a committed Christian. The event – entitled “Building Power at a Time of Political Turmoil” will run from 5 to 6.30pm on Friday 26th May. You can book a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday of Holy Week, our Director Angus Ritchie reflects on a pivotal event which we often overlook…
The Cleansing of the Temple is a pivotal event in all four Gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke it occurs in the days between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday), whereas in John it is placed very near the beginning of his public ministry.
As Lent approaches, our Chaplain Sr Josephine Canny OA blogs on how our keeping of the season might relate to our care of God’s creation…
Many of the Churches are proposing that during Lent this year, we reflect on our attitude towards the planet.
On March 9th, The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO) celebrates its twentieth birthday. CTC Director Angus Ritchie writes about the achievements of Britain’s oldest community organising alliance, and our Centre’s deep roots in its work…
In two weeks, we will be going back to the building where it all started. Twenty years after TELCO’s founding assembly in York Hall in Bethnal Green, 1200 local people will gather to celebrate all that has been accomplished and commit to organising together for another two decades.
Richard Springer, the Director of our Urban Leadership School, blogs on our summer internship programme. Applications are now open: might it be right for you or for someone you know…?
For over a decade, CTC’s Summer Internship has given a remarkable opportunity to young people interested in developing their own capacity as Christian leaders and directly participating in church based community organising in London.
Angus Ritchie (Director of CTC and Priest in Charge of St George-in-the-East) blogs on two new church plants which are using community organising to make disciples and challenge injustice…
Through our research and our work with inner-city congregations, we are increasingly seeing a connection between community organising and numerical growth. Churches are likely to make new disciples when they are both willing to work with their neighbours for the common good and intentional about becoming more inviting and accessible to those who want to explore the Christian faith .
Molly Kemp spent a month as part of our summer internship programme. In this latest in the series of reflections on what the interns learned, she blogs about her placement at St Johns, Hoxton…
While studying chemistry at Oxford, I became involved with an organisation called Just Love, which aims to get Christian students involved in seeking social justice. Eventually I ended up on the committee running the Just Living project, which focuses on how we can change our lifestyle, what we eat, where we buy our clothes and what we pray about so that it is more just. So although I had spent a lot of time thinking, reading and praying about social justice, it had been quite focused on the individual decisions, the impact of which was hard to trace. I wanted to explore the way relationships within a community could be used to bring about structural change – exactly what this internship (and community organising) does.
Here is another blog from one of our summer interns. This time, Laura MacFarlane talks about her time in Peckham, helping the church campaign for a better local park…
I was brought up in a village in a rural area of Portsmouth. Community was always very important to us, both as a church and as a family. We were deeply involved in the life of the village and I always enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life, working together with those from different churches and groups.
After finishing school, I went to Exeter University to study theology. I became more and more interested in the way that Jesus worked in communities, and also began to understand more fully the problems that existed beyond the boundaries of my little village. This led me to complete a project addressing the problems with the welfare state, following which my lecturer recommended the CTC summer internship to me.
Every summer at CTC we introduce a group of young people to church-based community organising. This year we had a fantastic group. Here, Rachel Cook blogs about her placement at Holy Trinity, Tottenham….
Having been involved in various voluntary projects and charity work, for example cooking meals for homeless people, mentoring school children, the main reason I wanted to do this internship was to better understand how to tackle poverty and injustice on a larger scale.
In this blog, our Development Director, Tim Thorlby outlines the challenges facing the new Prime Minister, and how things look from outside the Westminster bubble…
“I was the future once”
A rueful comment as another Prime Minister exits the political stage, knowing that his time is up. Such moments of transition are times of reflection. David Cameron’s time in Number 10 is already being analysed, with his initial hopes and dreams now being set against assessments of his actual legacy.
Our Summer Internship (previously known as Jellicoe) is currently taking place here in east London. After three days of training with Citizens UK and CTC, the 11 interns are taking part in placements with local churches involved in community organising. Selina Stone blogs about what has been happening so far…
Our cohort of interns has arrived from different cities around the UK, with one flying in from the USA on his way home to the Ukraine! Each of them has a project brief explaining where they will be placed, who their supervisors will be and where they will be staying for the duration of the month. None of the interns have been trained in community organising before, and all of them are students or recent graduates, often discerning the way forward in their studies, careers and ministry. Some of them were involved in Citizens UK’s #NoPlaceForHate campaign at London transport hubs – offering stickers and leaflets for what to do in the event of witnessing a racist incident.
After the UK voted to leave the EU on Thursday, we have gathered together some of the responses to help reflection and response…
CTC’s Director Angus Ritchie was part of a panel of theologians asked by ABC Religion to respond to the result. His thoughts were published along with the likes of former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Professor John Milbank.
Angus says, “The challenge for Christians (however we voted in the referendum) is to listen to their genuine and justified grievances, and to help them organise for justice – making common cause with the migrant communities which the worst of the Leave campaign encouraged them to scapegoat. None of this can be accomplished by pontificating from afar. It requires a patient engagement; listening and building relationships. Such patience was of course the practice of Jesus himself – not lecturing the people of his own day from afar on the need to welcome Samaritans, but living and working in Nazareth for thirty years before living out that costly hospitality.”
Selina Stone from CTC and Emmanuel Gotora from Citizens UK were present at a historic event in New York, as East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) welcomed twenty new institutions into membership. EBC is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which developed broad based community organizing and is linked to Citizens UK and CTC. Selina explains what happened and why it was so important for community organising in the UK…
EBC is one alliance made up of 40 civil society institutions from four different neighbourhoods in east Brooklyn – a diverse area, just like east London. On the evening of Thursday 2nd June 2016, 1,500 citizens from EBC packed into Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Bed Stuy. Vans arrived delivering dozens of senior citizens and church groups. Families arrived with young children and many passersby paused to see what was taking place.
The Centre for Theology & Community and Citizens UK were delighted to host an international symposium bringing together community organisers and leaders from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany and across the UK. Selina Stone blogs about a wonderful time of learning and action!…
The symposium ‘Strengthening our Institutions: through action for the Common Good’ took place in London from Tuesday 26th – Friday 29th April 2016. Following an initial conference hosted two years ago by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in Chicago, leaders and community organisers gathered in London, the city which gave birth to Citizens UK. The purpose of the event was to both deepen relationships across national borders, and to engage with the theory and practice of developing institutions through public action. Attendees also witnessed the largest-ever Citizens UK action, when 6,000 Londoners gathered at the Copper Box on the Olympic Park for the 2016 Mayoral Assembly.
The newest member of the our team is Sotez Chowdhury, who has just been appointed Co-ordinator of Near Neighbours (Eastern London). In this next phase of Near Neighbours in our area, there will be a particular focus on “micro-organising” – that is, building sustainable long-term local alliances. Sotez is well qualified for this work. He’s an experienced community organiser and has worked with churches, mosques and other faith institutions as well as teaching at Queen Mary University. Here he tells us about his experiences and his hopes for his new role at CTC…
“I’ve spent the last six year working for Citizens UK – aiming to unify communities by building relationships with people from all walks of life, training community leaders and building civil society alliances to campaign for the common good. Times are tough here in east London and elsewhere – there are plenty of challenges that face us. However, I have been inspired by the potential of individuals and groups to make an impact – and that’s where Near Neighbours comes in, allowing people to fulfil their potential, innovate and make change.
What are credit unions? How can churches support them? Why are they important for churches? Tom Newbold explains all…
The Church Credit Champions Network, which we have been running here at CTC since 2014, has been helping churches answer these questions through a mixture of theological reflection, practical resources, and expert training events. The Network was set-up in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s famous ‘War on Wonga’ comments, and has so far engaged with over 200 churches in London alone, helping sign-up 2,000 new credit union members in the process!
In this blog, our Development Director, Tim Thorlby reflects on how deep some changes need to be if we are to build momentum towards the common good…
I was asked a lot of questions this week about the Living Wage – the independently calculated wage which people can actually afford to live on (currently £9.40 per hour in London). Why should an employer pay it? How will they afford it? Won’t higher wages mean that more businesses want to move abroad?
These are not bad questions. Debating these kinds of changes is important. But I really wanted to ask a different question.
Well, why not pay a Living Wage?
Our Faith in Public Life Officer David Barclay addressed a conference on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Ridley Hall, Cambridge this week. In this blog, adapted from his remarks, he examines community organising, CSR and the common good…
Over the last few years, I’ve used community organising methodology to influence behaviour in businesses in the financial sector from the outside. What I want to do today is explore what it might look like to reshape a business by using community organising from the inside.
The first element of the community organising is the most important – listening. We always start by listening for two reasons – to identity issues and to find potential leaders who are willing to take action. What’s really going on is a bit deeper – it is the exploration of what we call ‘self-interest’. We define self-interest as ‘that which motivates action’. Self-interest is not the same as selfishness, but neither is it selflessness. It is a complex mixture of beliefs, values, traditions and material concerns.
The Revd Vanessa Conant is Team Rector of Walthamstow. She has been one of the participants on our congregational development programme with Citizens UK this year. Here she blogs for us about how we’re helping her engage with her local community.
What have I learnt through the process?
Coming new to a parish and beginning the course almost immediately meant that straight away, I had a framework through which to view the parish and make sense of it. The ‘seven marks of an organised congregation’ were a helpful foundation from which to build and to approach the task of giving direction and focus. I used those marks as the foundation for our vision and strategy in 2016 and so our activity is being shaped by the programme.
David Lawrence is one of our Buxton interns. Here, he blogs for us about his first hand experience of unity across diversity in the battle to Keep Sunday Special…
I wasn’t alive when Margaret Thatcher was defeated in the House of Commons for the first and only time in 1986 – on the issue of Sunday trading. Yet I’ve heard stories of about how the Church, some Conservative MPs and trade unionists united in a desperate stand, clinching victory at the last minute over a strong government to keep Sundays special – at least for another decade. Perhaps those stories are slightly exaggerated. Sometimes, though, surprising alliances are formed as groups unite in pursuit of a shared cause, even when that cause – Sundays – is dismissed as irrelevant and old fashioned by those in charge. And just sometimes, those unlikely bedfellows win and we are reminded of the power of democracy.
David Barclay blogs about the kind of change we can believe in…
We’ve become pretty immune to manifestos these days. I wonder how many people read any of the Parties’ manifestos before the General Election last year, let alone how many can remember what they said. Ed Miliband even carved half of his manifesto into a giant stone and people still didn’t take it seriously!
However if we’ve become jaded, we’d do well not to laugh off Jesus’ manifesto – in Luke 4. Fresh from his baptism and his time in the desert, having had 30 years to consider what his ministry might look like, Jesus chooses to kick it all off by making Isaiah’s words his own – “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Our Director, Angus Ritchie, blogs on our efforts to teach (and learn from) other parts of the world…
London is one of the most diverse cities on earth, in terms of ethnicity and of religion. That’s one reason community organising is such a valuable practice – as David Barclay has argued, if we are going to build relationships across deep difference, we need to first build “political friendships” on issues of common concern.
Community Organising in so many different cultures and communities creates some exciting international opportunities. When people from various diaspora communities encounter the practice, a question often asked is: “what might this have to offer in our home country?”
The Director of the Urban Leadership School here at CTC, Revd Tim Clapton, blogs about out upcoming summer internship…
The year is well underway, and although it is cold outside, our minds are turning to the summer. Already it is mid January so our Urban Leadership School is firmly focused on planning this year’s Summer Internship. Details of the programme are now available and once again we are making contact with our wider networks, clergy in East London and beyond and university theology departments. Applications are already coming in, so once again, we are in for an exciting summer.
For the last 18 months, Theo Shaw has been working for us here at CTC, running the Church Credit Champions Network in Southwark Diocese. She’s moving onto a new opportunity so as she leaves we decided to talk to her about how it’s been to get churches thinking and talking about credit, debt and money in general…
Can you describe what your role for CTC has been?
I work as the Network Coordinator. My patch covers the Diocese of Southwark. It’s a pilot project covering London, Liverpool and Southwark. I encourage churches to engage with money and debt and help them act on the issues.
The Revd Dr Simon Cuff is a CTC Research Associate and Curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing. This week, he delivered the 2015 Jellicoe Sermon at Magdalen College, Oxford. Delivered on All Saints Day, Fr Simon reflects on how we might see the world as the Saints did; as it is, and how it should be…
“Michelle Obama once told of an outing with Barack Obama early on in their relationship. The romantic Barack had taken her to a meeting of local community leaders he’d worked with after leaving college. The future President stood up, she said: ‘and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be,”‘ a distinction often made by community organisers in America, but also those working in this country through the diverse alliance of faith and civil society institutions known as Citizens UK.
After a successful pilot last year, CTC and Citizens UK have partnered to launch a second cohort of the Congregational Development Programme. The year-long process supports churches and leaders seeking to act in public life through broad-based Community Organising. Selina Stone explains what the programme is all about and what the leaders can expect…
Relational power is the foundation of broad-based community organising. Relationships are developed between individuals through one-to-one conversations and also between institutions through joint action for justice. However, in order for these connections to be truly powerful, individuals and institutions must be continually developed. The Congregational Development Programme has been created to help churches to renew the inner life of their congregations through community organising practices, so increasing their capacity to act in public life.
Our Director Angus Ritchie writes in tribute of an inspiring figure who taught us a great deal…
At Fr Ken Leech’s requiem (held today), we were invited to reflect on these words of his:
“The Eucharistic life, in which all are treated on absolute equality and in which they share, and become, the Body of Christ, is totally at variance with the way society treats people.
“Protest is a byproduct of vision. If the church recovers its contemplative vision, becomes more rooted in God, it will become a disturbing force for society.”
CTC’s Caitlin Burbridge blogs about how churches can play a decisive role in easing the refugee crisis…
This past few weeks we’ve seen an extraordinary change of mood in the British psyche. Church leaders, along with those of other faiths and none, are calling for us to capitalise on this and become a far more hospitable country for those fleeing conflict and persecution.
For the last year, churches in Citizens UK have been working on a campaign to resettle refugees in this country. Citizens UK and the campaign group Avaaz have together been gathering specific and concrete commitments from congregations, individuals, local councils and landlords to house and welcome refugees.
Our Communications Officer, Andy Walton, blogs about the joy of having 17 young people join us as interns for the month of July – and a snapshot of what they’ve been up to…
For many years now our internship programme has been training up young Christians in the practices of community organising and sending them to spend a month working with a church in London. The summer of 2015 has seen young Christians from Ghana, Germany and Italy join those from the UK to comprise our most diverse cohort ever. Most are at university, but some are school leavers. They come from a wide variety of church traditions – spanning Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Anglican and others. But they are united in their desire to see local churches engaging with their communities.
CTC’s ‘Congregational Development’ programme is designed to support churches and leaders seeking to act in public life through community organising with Citizens UK. Selina Stone explains what the programme is all about and how it equips Christian leaders and churches…
Community organising is most famous for its campaigns – whether for the Living Wage, a cap on payday lending, or a more just asylum system. However, the foundation of all this work is the way it develops institutions and leaders. For churches – as for other civic and religious groups – this is what determines the extent to which they can participate in public life. CTC and Citizens UK are working together to help churches harness this great potential of community organising, through a nine month ‘action learning community.’ I’ve been one of the team of staff working on our 2014-15 pilot, and we are now planning an expanded programme for 2015-16.
The Revd Tim Clapton, Director of our Urban Leadership School, blogs on our upcoming summer internships programme…
I find it useful when people offer their feedback and reflections – it’s the best way of evaluating a piece of work. So when, the other day, I met a young man who some years ago, had taken part in our Jellicoe Internship, I was keen to hear what he had to say. I asked him how he found it. Would he recommend it to others?
His reply, or perhaps the way he replied, gave me quite a shock. Previously we had just been informally standing around in a group sipping wine, but when I asked the question he suddenly turned around and looked straight at me. He said, “Jellicoe totally changed the course of my life.”
The Revd Dr Simon Cuff is a CTC Research Associate and Curate of Christ the Saviour, Ealing. Here he blogs about the Citizens UK Assembly – the most vibrant event of the election campaign…
At Mass last Sunday, we heard these words from the first epistle of S. John: ‘My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active’. The next day (May 4th), Citizens UK held its second General Election Accountability Assembly in its 25 year history. At this event, the agenda born out of thousands of conversations with our members would be put to the three party leaders most likely to be in government by way of 5 clear and specific asks (on social care, sanctuary, Just Money, living wage and a commitment to meet regularly with us).
The Revd Alexandra Lilley is Curate at St Paul’s, Shadwell and a good friend of ours at CTC. Here she blogs about the most extraordinary event of the election campaign. The Citizens UK Assembly…
I am new to this.
When I first attended a Citizens UK meeting several years ago, I walked into a room where everyone spoke a different dialect from me. (Maybe that’s how people feel when they go to church for the first time.)
Doing the ‘rounds’ felt cringey and contrived; I didn’t listen to anyone else because I was worried I had so little to offer. I didn’t want to be ‘organised’ thank you very much, nor did I want to ‘organise’ anyone else – how terribly pushy. And I certainly didn’t want to conduct a ‘listening campaign’ by accosting complete strangers in my neighbourhood. I am, after all, very much an introvert. I popped Citizens on the shelf and allowed it to get dusty.
Our Director Angus Ritchie blogs on the need for us to be active citizens in the run up to, and beyond, the election…
Would you like to have more power? The word “power” usually produces a pretty negative reaction, especially among religious people. Our first thoughts tend to focus on the ways it is so often abused. But power is simply the ability to make things happen. Unless you think the world is just perfect as it is, you are going to need some power to change it for the better.
As we approach the election, the depressing and disengaged mood of so many voters flows from their sense of powerlessness. Although we live in a democracy, many voters feel like spectators as our life is shaped by external economic forces. What would it take for these economic systems to be placed at the service of a truly common good?
Rosina St James is on our Buxton Leadership Programme for 2014-15. Here she blogs for us on the power of personal stories in changing the world…
I have always taken for grated the idea of testimony. I grew up around church elders telling me stories of God bringing them through many of life’s challenges.
I remember hearing my first Community Organising testimony. It was from a women called Shirley who moved from the Caribbean with her husband and two very young children. Her husband Kevin had a well-paid job so she could look after their children full time. One evening while Kevin was on his way home from work, he had a heart attack on the train and was pronounced dead at the scene. This came as such a shock to Shirley as Kevin was a young, healthy man – she hadn’t thought about preparing a will or getting life insurance.
Revd Dr Simon Cuff is Assistant Curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing and a Research Associate of CTC. Here he blogs about how Community Organising and building relationships is key to everything we do…
Towards the end of last week, I was asked to turn to the person next me and discuss the mission statement of my organisation. It happened that I was sitting next to a minister from the black Pentecostal tradition. We reckoned that, as Christians, from the Pentecostal and anglican catholic traditions respectively, we should be able to come up with a mission statement that would describe the mission of both of our organisations and would suffice at least until our organisations achieve that unity of mission statements which Christ wills. We each agreed that our mission was ‘to be the body of Christ on earth, by proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed’.
Co-ordinator of our Buxton Leadership Programme, David Barclay, blogs on how we’re helping to reshape the way politics is done – and how you can join in!
Politics in the UK is broken. As politicians and parties vie for attention, a recent survey suggested that almost half the population is now so disinterested, they haven’t even registered that there is an election this year. Less than one in five of us now expect politicians to tell the truth, and most of us trust bankers and estate agents more than our Westminster elite.
Our Director Angus Ritchie, who’s been involved in the Living Wage campaign for 15 years, blogs about this week’s £5.1 billion Premier League TV deal…
Richard Scudamore is a comfortable man, as well he might be. I imagine the Chief Executive of the Premier League on a more-than-comfortable salary, and he has just had a very good week at the office. The League has secured £5.14 billion in broadcasting rights from British TV companies, with negotiations still ongoing about international rights.
Our Communications Officer Andy Walton blogs about our work both before and in the aftermath of the Paris attacks…
It’s impossible to fully make sense of mass murder. Whatever reason is given, the sheer horror of the murder of 12 French people in their own capital city will always be tinged with the simple thought… why? As I mulled over the events in Paris with colleagues, our minds turned quickly back to an event we’d been part of exactly a week prior to the shootings.
Co-ordinator of our eastendspeaks programme, Caitlin Burbridge, writes about the build up to Christmas as a community organiser in Hackney…
Advent. It’s a time for waiting.
But what does waiting actually look like? What are we waiting for? It’s interesting to think that as the Shepherds were watching and waiting, they became expectant. When they were watching their sheep an angel showed up, and just as they were walking to Bethlehem to meet Jesus, they were expectant of something good (if perhaps a little terrified?). In waiting and watching we are open to discovering God in the lives of those around us.
It’s been a busy time for Hackney Citizens this last few months. We’ve been gathering in small clusters across the borough to train people in how to listen to one another, to listen to those in our congregations, and in our schools, and also to those who live in our neighbourhoods. I’ve been considering the significance of this.
Selina Stone is a Church-based Community Organiser at CTC. Earlier this month, she was part of the team teaching community organising to final-year ordinands at St Mellitus College…
CTC and Citizens UK were delighted to be invited to deliver six teaching sessions at St Mellitus College on the theology and practice of churches’ engagement in community organising.
For many students, community organising was a brand new concept. Stefan Baskerville, lead organiser for West London used the first session to teach the students the some of the fundamental principles and practices of Citizens UK. The students wrestled with the idea of ‘power’ as something to be welcomed (when it is ‘power with’ and not ‘power over’ others).
David Barclay, our Faith in Public Life Officer, blogs on another great week for our Just Money campaign…
The last month or so has been quite a time for CTC’s work on money – with action, success and new initiatives coming thick and fast!
Firstly, the Financial Conduct Authority announced the level of the cap on the cost of credit which will come into place from January. This will limit the amount that payday lenders can charge, and make sure that nobody will ever have to pay back more than double what they initially borrowed. This is a huge step forward in the fight against exploitative lending, and one that CTC has been calling for as part of Citizens UK since right back in 2009! On the Today Programme that day the Bishop of Stepney explained that those in the Church should celebrate this win without thinking that it will by itself solve the problems of debt and financial insecurity in our communities. He referenced CTC’s Church Credit Champions Network (of which he is the Chair of the Steering Group) as an example of how the Church is not just fighting against bad practice in the financial sector but also promoting more ethical alternatives like credit unions.
Selina Stone, of our researchers, blogs about our exciting new research into community organising in the Pentecostal Church…
Black Pentecostal churches are growing in both social and political significance in the UK. We are pleased to be conducting research into the civic involvement of Black Pentecostal churches through community organising. I’m writing this report alongside Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere of the Apostolic Pastoral Congress and CTC’s Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritche.We’re keen to report our findings but also encourage greater participation in community organising as a way of both developing congregations and transforming local communities.
Across the UK, churches are engaging with community organising and as a result, are being equipped to effectively bring about change in their local communities. Whether campaigning for the Living Wage, tackling payday lenders or targeting injustices in the immigration system, churches are making their political voices heard. For some denominations this comes as second nature, from strong theological and doctrinal foundations. However, for other more recent church groups such as Pentecostals, practical ministry can sometimes overtake theological statements.
Our good friend Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere of the Apostolic Pastoral Congress preached at our 10th anniversary celebration last week (28th Oct). He was joined by the Bishop of Stepney and our chaplain Sr Josephine Canny as ecumenical representatives in a packed out church.
We hosted the event at St George-in-the-East – where our new offices were based. Along with some great stories of our work over the last decade, we celebrated the new offices and our change of name.
Following on from the reading Matthew 13, Bishop Moses gave a short reflection, as follows…
Revd Dr Simon Cuff, Assistant Curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing and a Research Associate at CTC blogs on the different Community Organising has made in just a year in his parish…
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since our first foray into the art of Community Organising. In September 2013, Andy Walton from CTC introduced the concept of community organising and led a listening session at our ‘Kids in the Community’ youth group. We listened together to the needs of our young people and their concerns about the local area. It was here that we first heard how our teenagers often felt unsafe travelling to and from school on public transport.
Fast-forward to the end of April this year, our young people had shared their concerns with those of students from the nearby William Perkin Church of England High School, and we were all gathered at a West London Citizens accountability assembly. That evening, the candidates for leader of the local council were asked to do four things. One of them was to host and fund meetings with schoolchildren from across the borough and key stakeholders in public transport.
Our Faith in Public Life officer, David Barclay, blogs about the second year of our pioneering leadership programme for young Christians…
The Buxton Leadership Programme is ready for its second year! The programme gives talented young Christian leaders a unique combination of experience in Parliament alongside a chance to practice church-based community organising. The aim is to help develop a new generation of Christian leaders in public life who can bring the experiences of inner-city communities into dialogue with Westminster. Alongside the practical placements the programme provides opportunities for reflection and personal development, including input from some of the leading Christians in public life in the UK. The Programme is named after Thomas Fowell Buxton, the heroic abolitionist who was an MP in the East End.
Centre Director Angus Ritchie blogs on some new ways in which CTC is supporting churches involved in community organising…
The Contextual Theology Centre was founded in 2005 by Christian leaders involved in London Citizens – and over the years, we have provided opportunities for those involved in community organising to root their work more deeply in prayer and theological reflection. As Simon Cuff’s blog reminds us, around the world, congregations both provide the ‘beating heart’ of community organising and can use its practices to help them grow and flourish.
Fr Simon Cuff, Assistant Curate at Christ the Saviour, Ealing, blogs for us about a recent trip to Chicago with several other Christian leaders from Citizens UK…
Staff from CTC and clergy in our partner churches, have returned after an intensive week of learning and sharing experience with others involved in faith-based community organising. ‘Faith Institutions and Industrial Areas Foundation Organizing’ was the theme for around 100 clergy, organisers and lay practitioners of the craft of community organising from across America, Germany, Australia and the UK.
We met outside Chicago at Mundelein Seminary (University of S. Mary of the Lake) – a significant venue. Saul Alinsky, the father of community organising, had influenced a generation of Mundelein seminarians (e.g. Msgr Jack Egan) when he began organising. The desire to have a similar impact in a new generation provided the motivation for this gathering.
In this blog we here from Emmanuel Carriere, who is a member of the congregation at one of our partner churches – St Peter’s, Bethnal Green. The church has been involved in setting up City Safe havens in its local area. Emmanuel describes a recent event where people of all different backgrounds came together from churches, mosques, schools and other institutions involved in Citizens UK to ask for improvements in street lighting to make their community safer…
I am Emmanuel Carriere and I am 18 years old. I go to Cambridge Heath 6th form and St Peter’s Church in Bethnal Green which is a member of Tower Hamlets Citizens. I am involved in working for a safer borough because I want to see a positive change happen in the community that I grew up in and still live in.
The first time I was asked to get involved with the CitySafe campaign I was a bit hesitant to start. I didn’t really feel confident to go for opportunities that were handed to me. However, when the chance came again from Caitlin [Community Organiser at St Peter’s] I was really excited about it and a lot more confident than a year ago.
The Buxton Leadership Programme was launched by CTC to bring the world of Westminister closer to that of daily life some of the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods – and to equip a new generation of Christian leaders to engage in public life in these very different contexts.
Caitlin Burbridge, Sarah Santhosham and Selina Stone are on the inaugural programme – and Caitlin blogs here about the experience…
‘Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity’ (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate).
Pope Benedict’s assertion well encapsulates for me the purpose of the Buxton Leadership Programme; that by growing to understand God’s desire for the development of all peoples, and learning more about the obstacles to this reality, we might help the evolution of a new authentic, just and loving politics in which Christians can bear witness to ‘truth’. The experience has raised for me a number of important questions: about investing in young people around issues that capture their imaginations,and the need for the church to contribute to a more full bodied politics which does understand the potential ‘authentic development of every person and of all humanity’.
Building on three years of work as our Near Neighbours Co-ordinator – and decades of experience in inner-city ministry and mission – Tim Clapton is now the Director of the Contextual Theology Centre’s new Urban Leadership School.
In this blog he introduces its exciting range of training programmes, and explains how you can get involved!
In the last eight years, the Contextual Theology Centre has welcomed almost 100 Jellicoe Interns to East London. These students (most of them undergraduates) spend four weeks in a local congregation involved in community organising. Some of these interns have gone on to year-round placements with our partner churches, or to become full-time members of staff.
Centre Director Angus Ritchie blogs on his new Lent book, written with Paul Hackwood. Just Love: Personal and Social Transformation in Christ costs £8.99 – or £5.15 on Kindle. You can view the cover here and a sample chapter here.
The Kindle version is online now, and hard copies can be ordered from email@example.com or Amazon. There are discounts for bulk purchases (20% off for 20+ copies, 25% off for 50+ and 30% off for 100+).
The last year has seen two exciting developments for Christians committed to social justice. They make it an excellent time to launch a book on the personal and social aspects of transformation in Christ.
David Barclay is the Centre’s Faith in Public Life Officer, and co-ordinates our work with Citizens UK on the Just Money campaign against exploitative lending.
Here he blogs on some Advent action in Hackney to get the Council to clamp down on adverts for payday loans – after the campaign’s recent success in Tower Hamlets.
A delegation of 20 leaders from Hackney Citizens has presented a petition to the Council calling for a ban on payday loan adverts from billboards and bus shelters in the Borough. The petition, which gathered over 850 signatures, was presented to Cabinet member Jonathan McShane with a distinct Christmas theme, complete with Santa, wrapping and carols.
As part of our Buxton Leadership Programme, Selina Stone is working for CTC as a church-based Community Organiser in Lambeth – focussing on the Just Money Campaign with Citizens UK. She is based at St John’s Church, Angell Town, working with the Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett.
In this extract from God and the Moneylenders – our new collection of essays – Selina describes her first two months of organising.
Upon arrival in Lambeth I spent the first two weeks conducting research that would allow me to gain an understanding of the financial situations in Brixton and Streatham. Over recent years, these two areas in the Borough have become increasingly occupied by payday lenders.
It has been quite a week for Citizens UK’s Just Money Campaign – run with in partnership with the Contextual Theology Centre.
David Barclay – our Faith and Public Life Officer, who co-ordinates the campaign – blogs on its latest, very local achievement.
The Just Money campaign has notched up another win! Just a few days after the Government’s momentous decision to cap the cost of credit, the Tower Hamlets team have persuaded their local Council to ban payday loan adverts from as many public places as possible.
David Barclay, the Centre’s Faith in Public Life Officer, blogs on our latest report, which he has co-edited with our Director, Angus Ritchie.
As he explains, the report on exploitative lending has been launched on the very best of days, as our Just Money campaign with Citizens UK celebrated a historic victory!
Yesterday the Government announced that they would be capping the cost of credit, bringing to an end the unrestricted interest rates and penalty fees currently charged by payday lenders. Today it has emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury played a key role in this decision. So it is a very good time to announce CTC’s latest publication – ‘God and the Moneylenders: faith and the battle against exploitative lending’.
Our Development Director Tim Thorlby blogs on what happened at the first of the Centre’s new programme of seminars for local church leaders.
The seminar tackled the challenge of ‘gangs and street violence’ and also saw the launch of our latest report Taking Back the Streets: Citizens’ responses to the 2011 riots.
On Tuesday 12th November, the Centre welcomed a diverse group of local church leaders and practitioners from across London to take part in the first of our new programme of seminars on ‘Theology for the Local Church’. These seminars – which are hosted at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine in east London – aim to equip local churches with the latest theology and practice on a key issue and then to provide the space for discussion and reflection.
Today’s Church Urban Fund conference in East London has seen a powerful call by Archbishop Justin Welby for Christians to engage in politics – and Maurice Glasman praise community organising as an effective means of doing so. In this post, we look at some exciting events and publications which will equip local churches to put these ideas into practice.
CTC’s Senior Tutor refers to community organising as an example of “small ‘p’ politics” – seeking the good of the polis (city) in which God has placed us, in response to the command of the Bible (Jeremiah 29.7). Today, many of the CTC team are at the Church Urban Fund’s “Tackling Poverty Together” conference, in which Archbishop Welby and Lord Glasman (a Fellow of CTC) have called on local churches to engage in these kinds of “small ‘p’ politics”.
On 12th November, we are launching a new report – Taking Back the Streets: Citizens’ responses to the 2011 riots. It will be the first report in our exciting new series on ‘Research for the Local Church’.
Here, Centre Director Angus Ritchie blogs about the significance of the report.
In the summer of 2011, London experienced riots which were quite unprecedented in their scale. What was new in 2011 was that the police seemed unable to keep order in a significant number of neighbourhoods. Never before had so many Londoners had direct experience of civil disorder; of streets that no longer felt secure.
Policing a population is only ever possible by consent: with the active participation of the community. The riots highlighted both the fragility of civil society and its vital role in keeping our streets safe. They led many Londoners to a renewed effort to reclaim their streets as places of safety and community.
Every year, Magdalen College, Oxford hosts a Jellicoe Sermon, in honour of Fr Basil Jellicoe. Fr Basil studied at the College, and went on transform the rat-infested slums of London’s Somers Town as part of the Magdalen College Mission.
The sermon is given by someone connected with CTC and our Jellicoe Community. This year’s sermon was delivered by our Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie. The Gospel reading was Luke 18.9-14.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Most people remember Rosa Parks for a single, iconic act in the summer of 1955. On her bus home from work, she sat down as usual in the area reserved for black people. As the front (which was reserved for whites) filled up, the bus driver moved the “colored” sign behind Parks, and told her to move to the back to accommodate the extra white passengers.
Beth Green has just finished a month of community organising in Walthamstow, as one of our Jellicoe interns.
Here she blogs about her experiences…
Having spent much of my life moving country every two to three years, the sense of belonging and home that I found was always very transient. Any notion of community perhaps only became apparent to me when I came to faith in my second year of University, and quickly found home at church. I was interested to see what community organising looked like in a faith context, and I hungered to see how the Church could be at the centre of societal transformation and community building. I’m excited that I have come away from this month having a much clearer idea of what this looks like!