Dunstan Rodrigues co-ordinates CTC’s Buxton Leadership Programme, as well as organising in the Catholic Parish of Manor Park. Here he and this year’s Buxton interns reflect on their experience of the programme…
“I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible, loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride”
The social activist Dorothy Day used to hand out placards with these moving and powerful words written on them . It is a quotation from the American philosopher William James, yet represents much of what was central to Day’s politics: a focus on people before programmes; on concrete realities before grand ideas; and a trust in the slow work of the building relationships which – over time – will prove stronger than the forces of the system.
In a way, the Buxton Leadership Programme teaches much the same thing. Participants spend half their week working in Westminster, experiencing high, parliamentary politics, and the other practising church based organising in East London, building relationships and developing leaders. The year long, London living wage jobs provide an opportunity to practise and immerse oneself in politics on different levels at the same time. It is also a fantastic chance to see – as Dorothy Day did – that relational, loving human interactions are paramount if our political activity is to be fruitful.
Applications for the 2018-9 programme have now opened: please do pass on the information to any young Christians who might be interested. (http://www.theology-centre.org.uk/projects/training/buxton-leadership-programme/)
Alec, Miriam and Frankie (pictured l to r on the sofa, with Dunstan and the programme’s founder David Barclay) share what they are experiencing, enjoying and learning this year.
“Hello! I’m Alec. I spent last year as Vice-President of the University of Exeter Students’ Guild before coming to Buxton. For my placements, I am currently working in the office of the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, alongside community organising around housing issues at St Stephen’s Church in Manor Park.
I am thoroughly enjoying my Buxton experience. The chance to work both in Westminster whilst engaging in grassroots community action is a fairly unique one, and I’m finding my experience of both enriches the other. Organising both grounds the Westminster placement in the reality of day-to-day life, whilst seeing parliamentary business working out day by day gives a sense of how local action scales up to decisions being made on a national level.”
“I’m Frankie. I grew up in a charismatic Anglican church in Guildford before moving to Bath to study Languages and Politics. I am spending two days a week working for the Bishop of Winchester as his Parliamentary Assistant, and three days a week community organising at St. George-in-the-East parish church in Shadwell.
Holding the two placements together is an exciting but challenging task, and I have been struck recently by how one can help me do the other better. For example, it is striking how useful some of the community organising tools can be for my work in Parliament. I am being challenged in new ways and learning much about the world and myself.”
“My name is Miriam, I’m a recent History graduate from Durham University, and am originally from Leicestershire. This year, I’m organising at St George-in-the-East church, Shadwell, and as a Parliamentary Assistant and Researcher for the Bishop of Durham.
Thus far, my Buxton experience has been incredible. The depth and range of skills I am being given the opportunity to hone is remarkable, from organising events in Parliament and writing speeches, to facilitating the empowerment and development of community leaders. The challenges too: realising that change is slow; learning to be patient; dealing with my own feelings of vulnerability… all are an excellent grounding for the rest of my career. Seeing politics in all of its forms, and understanding what it means to serve others within that sphere, has probably been the highlight for me so far. I am incredibly excited for what the rest of this year holds, and I cannot recommend the programme highly enough to others.”
Please keep Alec, Frankie and Miriam and all those who work with them in your prayers, giving thanks for those tiny, invisible, loving human forces that sustain them and the work they do.