The Director of our Urban Leadership School, Revd Tim Clapton, blogs here about the Jellicoe Internship 2014. (This summer we had people from a wide variety of backgrounds, who were placed with churches across east London and used Community Organising skills to help improve the area…)
We have been preparing for Jellicoe 2014 for the past seven or eight months with a good deal of recruiting and the organising of accommodation and placements. July suddenly arrived with a cloud of excitement and activity and now it is August and Jellicoe 2014 is all over, done, finished, even the evaluation report is almost written.
13 Christians aged between 19 and 41 joined us for the month of July. Seven were from Oxbridge and London universities, one from the Assemblies of God Bible college and five from congregations in east London. This is the first time Jellicoe has recruited interns from the east London Christian communities and it was excellent having such rich ethnic diversity. We gave participants a solid grounding in Community Organising, but we also spent a good deal of time in the first week getting to know each other and attending spiritual reflection sessions led by our chaplain, Sister Josephine.
The heart of the Jellicoe Internship is in the various east London congregations where our interns are placed. Two joined a local church and community supporting a campaign for a zebra crossing on a particularly dangerous Bethnal Green street. Others used their new found Community Organising skills to develop leadership in local congregations. One supported the City Safe programme in Hackney while three others joined Citizens UK’s Just Money campaign – working for a fairer financial system.
The most difficult week for the interns was the second week when they were required to contact local people they didn’t know and ask for a time to meet them. They had learnt about the power of one-to-one conversations and the relationships these conversations build – but they found it tough actually doing them. They soon, however, began to develop their communication skills. They began to organise; some arranged a meeting between the local community and councillors. Other interns organised congregational meetings or community conversations about money.
One intern supervisor and minister said, “our intern encouraged the congregation to look at themselves in new ways, and she motivated the church to adapt new approaches with children and young people.”
Another supervisor said, “Our intern made an extremely useful contribution to the Just Money campaign during his internship. They provided the capacity needed to kick things off… they have certainly set us on the right footing.”
What surprised me most is how much the interns seemed to enjoy their month. One said, “the last four weeks have been some of the most formative, challenging and inspiring weeks of my life.” Another commented that Jellicoe had been “transformative.” Many of interns arrived tired from a busy academic term, others had children to look after alongside their internship, others were Pentecostal Pastors who had church commitments during July. So there were certainly challenges for each intern – but this was just the sort of environment which God uses to shape and guide participants. After the programme, interns said how God had been working in their lives during Jellicoe, how they had found a renewed spiritual focus or direction in life. Others are gearing up to use their community organsing skills in their home context.
Jellicoe has been operating for nine years now so there is a lot of good practice around – but personally I learnt a good deal, particularly how Jellicoe can be developed for next year. For example, we are in conversations with one of this year’s intake as to how five Japanese students studying in the UK might be part of Jellicoe next year. We also have meetings planned in Christian in Hong Kong with those who wish to join Jellicoe next summer and once again we hope to deepen our links with community organising in Ghana in 2015. So it looks most likely that there will be two programmes next year but one Jellicoe internship – a UK Jellicoe internship and an International Jellicoe. It is all early days – but very exciting.
A final word to the 13 Jellicoe alumni who shared so much of themselves this summer – thank you. Thank you for throwing yourself into the programme so willingly and vigorously. Thank you for developing some real outcomes alongside local Christian communities and thank you for being such good fun – we had a ball.