Mariam Kizza has recently begun as a Community Organising Apprentice at CTC, and will take part in the 2023-4 Buxton Leadership Programme. In this blog, she explains why her faith has inspired this engagement with organising, and describes her journey so far…
As a Christian, I have found myself increasingly challenged that we must be intentional and committed to being present in the community and in public life. When I first read up on the Buxton Leadership Programme, it resonated with me straight away.
I was drawn by its aims which make the crucial link between the Christian faith and bringing about justice. By this time, I had already been on a journey of realising the importance of voice. Not only in finding my own voice but also in advocating on behalf of others. As I explored the practice of community organising more, I particularly identified with its principle of mobilising ordinary people and empowering them to use their voice to bring the desired change.
All of this led to me participating in the Justice Discernment Programme at CTC last Autumn. I really enjoyed this experience. Over the course of 3 days, spread across three months, I had my first formal introduction to the practice of community organising. It was gradual and refreshing. Through the programme, I began learning about key concepts in organising such as the art of relational meeting, power – both relational and positional – and the important role of anger in creating long term change. This initial exposure was really helpful to have before participating in a recent Citizens UK 3-day training – An Introduction to Community Organising.
The programme wasn’t all theory though. I was tasked with arranging and holding 121 conversations with a few people in my own time. This was a great exercise because it opened the door to developing the skill of having 121s. I consider myself very comfortable having conversations with people of various ages and backgrounds; that’s a skill that my work in a north-west London church has afforded me. However I found myself challenged by the level of intentionality that is required when having a 121 with someone.
There were also a couple of field visits to see and hear about organising in action which made the programme all the more of an enriching experience. As we met and spoke with church-based community organisers and heard about the impact of their initiatives on communities and on them as individuals, earlier learnings about organising were brought to life. By the end of this experience, through prayer and reflection, I was confident about wanting to explore community organising further.
I recently began my role as a church-based community organising apprentice at Christ Apostolic Church in Homerton under the William Seymour Project. It is fairly early in this journey, but through initial conversations I am getting to know congregation members and have sought to make them familiar with me by sharing my story with them. Last week’s Congregational Development Sunday created room for some deeper engagement with one another. Through an ice breaker, rounds questions and mini 121s we were able to find out more about everyone’s connection to the Homerton area and also begin unearthing some of the common frustrations amongst the members. It’s exciting to think about what will emerge from future listening activities both within the congregation and with the wider community. My hopeful expectation is that over time and through further engagement, community members who consider themselves ordinary people will begin joining their voices and build power to bring forth the changes they want in their community.