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.
The Centre for Theology and Community has particular reason to celebrate this anniversary, for we grew out of churches’ engagement in TELCO. East London’s churches found that community organising helped us both to put Christian social teaching into practice (winning decent wages and affordable homes, challenging exploitative lending, and fighting for a better welcome for refugees) and strengthen local congregations (building deeper relationships within and beyond our walls, developing new leaders through public action, and in some cases helping churches to grow numerically). That is what led us, back in 2005, to found the Centre – to harness the potential of community organising to strengthen the life and witness of east London’s churches.
Christian leaders from a range of denominations – Roman Catholic and Pentecostal, Anglican and Baptist, Salvation Army and Methodist – have been at the heart of TELCO. The process of organising together has helped us to learn from one another’s distinctive gifts and strengths, and drawn us into deeper relationships with each other and with God.
This latter point is particularly striking: our experience of working with neighbours of other religions and beliefs has not diluted our Christian commitment. The experience of a growing number of east London’s Christians is that community organising deepens our discipleship. It helps us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in his anger at injustice, and his peaceful and yet powerful challenge to the systems which exploit the most vulnerable members of society.
If your church hasn’t yet explored the potential of community organising, March 9th provides an excellent opportunity to to see what it involves! If you’d like to come along as part of CTC’s delegation, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.