Launch event for Oxford Jellicoe Community

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United… for a Change
Organising for renewal in Church and Society

St Aldate’s Church – Monday 22nd November (7th Week) – 7.30 to 9pm

Come and hear Bishop Doug Miles – founder of Koinonia Baptist Church, Baltimore – on way Community Organising has transformed both his congregation and its inner-city neighbourhood…

…and find out how you can get involved in this work today – through the Jellicoe Community, which brings together Christians of all denominations and traditions to work and pray for social change.

New interns…and Tower Hamlets Mayoral Assembly

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The new term has got off too a busy and exciting start – with five year-round Jellicoe Interns in East London:

Josh Harris completed a summer internship at St Paul’s Shadwell, and is now back for a year-round placement
Liliana Worth has likewise chosen to come back to work at nearby SS Mary and Michael Catholic Church
Katy Theobald joins us from Balliol College, Oxford to work with Stepney Salvation Army on the Ocean Estate
Amma Asante continues a placement at the University of East London, where the Living Wage and CitySafe Campaigns are gaining momentum
Nitasha Kadam joins us from the University of Notre Dame, and will be helping to build Hindu engagement in community organising
On Wednesday, we had our first public action – TELCO’s Accountability Assembly for the candidates for Mayor of Tower Hamlets.  It is a controversial race, with Cllr Lutfur Rahman initially barred from the Labour shortlist, then topping the poll, then removed by the Party’s National Executive and replaced by Cllr Helal abbas.  Cllr Rahman is now standing as an Independent.  These two men were held to account (along with the Conservative, Green and LibDem candidates)on TELCO’s agenda for a Living Wage, Community Land Trusts,  CitySafe Havens and summer placements for young people.  Dave Hill blogged on the eve of the event, and Ted Jeory offers this verdict on proceedings:  

In answer to [the Assembly’s] five questions (will you as mayor meet with Telco twice a year; will you encourage employers to adopt the living wage; will you support subsidising criminal record checks [for CitySafe Havens]; will you deliver 1,000 work experience placements in the council and other public organisations; and will you support the development of community land trusts as a way of boosting social housing), not one candidate uttered the word ‘no’.

His verdict?

As a way of strong-arming candidates into commitments, it was fabulous; as a spectacle for those of us who have grown use to Tower Hamlets tub-thumping, it was a touch too grown up.

Introducing the Jellicoe Community

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This homily was preached by Angus Ritchie last night to the Isaiah Community in Waterloo.  It explains the vision of an expanded Jellicoe Community, as a fellowship open to people who are not on internships.
This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Fr Basil Jellicoe, at just 36 years of age – bringing to an end an extraordinary ministry, rooted in the slums of north-east London.  Jellicoe exemplified many of the best characteristics of the Anglo-Catholic clergy of his day.  He had passion and prayerfulness, humour and charisma.  Above all, he was inspired by the conviction that the life of God could and should become flesh in every earthly community. 
Jellicoe studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, before trained for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House.  Upon ordination in 1922, he was appointed as Magdalen’s missioner to the slums of Somers Town, near Euston Station.  Jellicoe regarded the state of his parishioners’ housing as a scandal.  He preached against it as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual disgrace.”   Jellicoe had been born into privilege and used his many connections to assemble a powerful alliance for change – enlisting the support of the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Housing Minister in his St Pancras House Improvement Society.
The Times’ obituary gives some flavour of Jellicoe’s extraordinary energy and enterprise:  telling its readers that Fr Jellicoe “resolved that he would not rest till his people had homes fit to live in, and the rehousing schemes started by his society have already provided many excellent flats with gardens, trees, ponds, swings for the children, and other amenities. Although the rents charged are not more than what the tenants paid for the old slums, the loan stock receives 2 per cent and the ordinary shares 3 per cent.”
As Diarmaid MacCulloch has observed: “Half a century before the development of London’s docklands, Fr Basil Jellicoe had pioneered an economically viable and morally inspiring form of ‘regeneration’.  More recent initiatives have all too often alienated and displaced the original residents.   Jellicoe’s version of neighbourhood renewal took local people seriously, and ensured their needs were given pride of place.”
There was a breadth and generosity to Jellicoe’s vision, which transcended the narrower tendencies of the Anglo-Catholicism.  Rowan Williams recounts a characteristic incident:  “Father Basil was challenged by some of his more narrow-minded High Church friends about why he would come to celebrate and preach in a parish church like [St Martin-in-the-Fields] where the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved. Father Jellicoe said he had no problem at all in coming to preach in a church part of which was reserved for the service of Christ in the form of his poor.”
Seven decades on, the Jellicoe Community was founded.  Its initial aim was to enable another generation of Magdalen students to live out these convictions, on residential placements in East London – more recently, interns have been drawn from a much wider range of colleges and universities.  Today’s students are part of a movement for social justice initiated by those living in the inner-city.  In the last couple of years broad-based community organising has received a new prominence in the media.  Some of you will recall the Citizens UK Assembly on the eve of the General Election, attended by the three party leaders, in which Gordon Brown encountered a Latin American family, the mother of whom cleaned the Chancellor’s office for rather less than a Living Wage.  Many more will be aware that it was the community organising alliance in Chicago that trained the young Barack Obama.  
Today’s Jellicoe Interns are placed in Christian congregations involved in broad-based community organising.  These churches span a wide variety of traditions – Pentecostal, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and Church of England.  
These churches are all members of London Citizens, the capital’s broad-based alliance.  It contains over 160 dues-paying organisations – alongside churches there are mosques, temples, schools, student and trade unions.  Their common action has achieved some striking results. London Citizens has won over £30 million pounds for low-paid workers, and secured the world’s first Living Wage Olympics.  The Citizens UK Assembly in May secured commitments from David Cameron and Nick Clegg to the end of child detention in the asylum process, and to Community Land Trusts as a way of achieving decent, affordable housing in our own generation.
In organising, the common action grows out of the relationships – relationships based on an attentive listening to people’s circumstances, passions and values.  Community organising is not unique because of the things it campaigns for –– what’s distinctive is the process.  The action is not merely for the poorest and most marginalised in society – it is taken by them.  People used to being passive recipients of whatever the political process deals out become agents of change.  The process matters every bit as much as the results.  
Those who run the Jellicoe internship programme have been surprised and heartened by the interest it is generating.  At a time when people are supposed to be apathetic, we are finding a real appetite for engagement with social and economic justice – engagement driven by the very people who are supposed to be hardest to involve.   At a time when young people are supposed to have given up on institutional religion, we find them increasingly drawn to a form of social action built on the life of local congregations.  And at a time when the media is full of stories of church disunity, we find Christians working together across a wider and wider range of denominations and traditions. The approach of community organising is to build relationships around the issues on which we can agree. This is not to evade the serious issues of disagreement.  Rather, the hope is through organising on the areas where passion and vision are shared, we can come to more contentious issues with deeper bonds of trust and solidarity.  
I’m delighted to be joined tonight by two of our summer interns – Antonia and Arabella, and two of organise the programme with me, Ian and Sr Josephine (who is the Chaplain to our Community).  There will be an opportunity to discuss our work and yours over tea and cake after the service.
The growing interest in Jellicoe internships – and in their combination of prayer, reflection and action – has led us to explore the idea of a wider ‘Jellicoe Community’.  This will bring together people, initially in Oxford and East London, who wished to give more depth and structure to their spiritual life and their social engagement.  We envisage a combination of local cells, occasional larger gatherings, and one-to-one mentoring by a team of Community Chaplains – helping members of the community to discern and live by a personal Rule of Life.  The development of this fellowship is at an early stage, and we are keen to learn from other communities such as your own.  
In denouncing slum housing as “an outward sign of an inward disgrace “ Jellicoe’s words, and indeed his whole life, proclaimed the intimate connection between spirituality and social justice.  Jellicoe knew that when the Spirit of God warmed and transformed human hearts there would be evidence of this in the public sphere as well as the personal. 
In many different Christian traditions, through many different initiatives and communities, there seems to be a new hunger for this holistic transformation – this renewal of hearts, of neighbourhoods and of societies.  May the Spirit of God, who has placed this work on our hearts, give us the wisdom, the grace, and the companions to fulfil that calling.  Amen.

Magdalen appoints ‘Jellicoe Chaplain’

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Magdalen College – Basil Jellicoe’s alma mater – has appointed the The Revd Dr Angus Ritchie as its Jellicoe Chaplain.  His role will be to oversee the development of the link between the College and East London, and act as Senior Member of the Jellicoe Society.  This is a continuation of work Angus has been involved in for some time – including setting up the Jellicoe Community, and arranging an annual Jellicoe Sermon in the College Chapel.

This year’s Jellicoe Sermon will be given by Bishop Doug Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church, Baltimore at 11am on Sunday 21st November.  Bishop Miles is a leading figure in BUILD, the city’s community organising alliance, and will be in the UK from 21-28 November on a speaking tour.  Other engagements include a keynote address at a conference on urban mission at Holy Trinity Brompton on 25th November.

Community walk in Hackney

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In the final blog post from our July interns, Jaya Carrier (Balliol College intern at St John-at-Hackney) describes the ‘community walk’ she and fellow intern Jim Barlow (Ripon College, Cuddesdon) arranged with local people to promote TELCO’s CitySafe campaign for safer strets

After four weeks of working at St. John’s, our community walk was organised on our very last day. Intended to be a reflective walk, it offered the chance for members of St. John’s to come with us to four designated places that had been the focus of local concerns in our one-to-one meeting. In a month that had been hectic and always throwing up the unexpected (!), the walk was a wonderful way for all to pause and be together.

Getting the walk together was tense at times; we were continually unsure of even a few people turning up, despite our bribes of tea and cake at the end! Also, in order to truly reflect our work overall, we were keen for there to be a representative spread of people across the parish. Therefore, we were really delighted to see that this all came together, with a sizeable and representative group coming along with us. What was especially heartening was the presence of young people and children; as something that was of such major concern to almost everyone we had spoken to, it was great to have their participation. The children were particularly engaged with the process; we created ‘wish tags’ that we had prepared to tie at each sight, that offered words of reflection. We invited the children to tie these, as well as offering the group to write on blank ones their own wishes and prayers. On what was a reflection of things that were occasionally rather solemn in tone, it was wonderful to have joy, excitement and participation in this way.

The feedback we received from those joining us on the walk was fantastic, and really allowed us to leave Hackney on a high. Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of the walk, however, was that the participants all stayed for tea and cake afterwards – some for some hours – just talking, catching up, laughing and reflection. This, for me, is what it is all about; togetherness.

Historic meeting for Housing Campaign

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It’s five years since communities in London Citizens camped in tents outside City Hall, to put pressure on the then Mayor Ken Livingstone to live up to his promises on a Community Land Trust.

Above: CTC Director Angus Ritchie (left) in a delegation of London Citizens leaders meeting Mayor Livingstone in July 2005, at the end of their encampment – reported by the BBC and Times

The Contextual Theology Centre, its partner churches and its Jellicoe interns have been at the heart of this campaign.  We are now celebrating success as the owners of the St. Clement’s Hospital site in Bow, East London have now agreed not to sell of the hospital site this summer.  Instead, they will be meeting with London Citizens local leaders to draw up plans for establishing London’s first ever Community Land Trust.

It’s a fitting piece of news to be blogging, 75 years to the day after Fr Basil Jellicoe died!

Celebrating Fr Basil

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Over 200 worshippers gathered on Sunday evening to honour Fr Basil Jellicoe, in this 75th anniversary year of his death.  The service, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, included readings and prayers by Jellicoe Interns, and a sermon by the Bishop of London.  This was followed by a reception with presentations by the interns on their work this month and songs from Jellicoe: The Musical – first performed in 2003.

St Martin’s was chosen because Fr Basil ministered there towards the end of his life.  The evening included testimony from the daughter of the then Vicar, who recalled his ministry in the parish.

We are grateful to Origin Housing – the successor body to Fr Basil’s St Pancras House Improvement Society – for helping to fund the reception, and for St Martin’s for hosting this inspiring event.

Two weeks in Newham

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Daniel Stone is a Jellicoe Intern based in Newham, East London – and a student of Economics and Management at St Peter’s College Oxford.  He blogs on his first two weeks on placement:

From the Barclays Tower in Canary Wharf to a small church hall in Stratford, the life of a Community Organiser is never dull! Two weeks ago I would have thought that people from such disparate ways of life would have nothing in common save their constant disappointment with the England football team! But I now realise that the link of commonality that binds people together runs deeper than material similarities towards motivations, frustrations and the answer to the famous community organisers’ question ‘What makes you angry?’

For many people in London regardless of their background; inner-city violence and the unneccessary death of countless numbers of young people makes them angry. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (meeting in Barclays Tower) is connected to countless numbers of people motivated by their faith, commitment to social justice or the heartache of personal bereavment, in wanting to make a difference so that future generations aren’t bound in a culture of fear and violence.

What is perhaps of greater concern is the sense of hopelessness that people find themselves in – a hopelessness that sees the 22 teenage deaths that have occured over the last 18 months as being something that is out of control and out of their hands. This simply isn’t the case and I have been encouraged by the organisations I have seen so far who are attempting to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the City Safe campaign, to tackle knife crime head on instead of passing responsibility onto the police.

One such community is that of the ARC based in Forest Gate, a church that 5 years ago was galvanized into action by the murder of one of their young people, Charlotte Polius. The vision of the church leadership and the enthusiasm of their young people has meant that rather than stirring up interest, the emphasis of my internship has been on building relationships and opening lines of communication with other members of their local community to act together for change.

I have come to realise the simplicity of community organising and just how beautiful this simplicity is! It is based purely on relationships – talking and acting with your neighbour – and is then something that we should all do naturally as relational beings. We introduced a number of young people to the City Safe campaign last week. During the meeting a young lady said that there wasn’t enough for young people to do and that one possible solution could be to encourage young people to take up boxing. Earlier that very same day we had been speaking to a former Ugandan Olympic boxer who wanted to expand his boxing programme to include more young people from Forest Gate!
The mission statement of the ARC is ‘keeping it simple, keeping it radical and always keeping it real’. For me this perhaps best sums up the aims of City Safe in that the issues of knife crime won’t be solved over night but by taking small steps to implement what we still sadly consider to be ‘radical’ ideas of community cohesion we can perhaps begin to change things.

From a programme to a movement

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The Jellicoe Community began as a programme for summer and year-round interns.  Out of this is beginning to grow a broader movement of students and young people committed to prayer, reflection and action.  The Mercers Company has just given the Contextual Theology Centre a grant which will enable it to employ Laurence Mills – one of the first Jellicoe Interns – to spend the autumn developing this wider community of young Christians.  So watch this space…


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