Autumn is often a time of new beginnings, and this Autumn brings a new cohort of Buxton Leadership Programme Associates. We were delighted last month to welcome Daniel Payne, Jonathan Akindutire and Emily Burlington-Horton to the Centre for Theology and Community, as they discern together what a Christian vocation in public life looks like.
The Buxton Programme aims to give young Christians a vision of a renewal of politics based on relationships, community and the Common Good. By spending half their week in Westminster and the other half of the week community organising with a church on local campaigns, participants gain a realistic understanding of how politics and power currently operate, and how this affects ordinary people in their communities.
Meet our new participants:
Johnathan graduated from the University of Sussex in 2020 with Law and International Relations and has experience doing youth work in a church and community context. He writes, “The Buxton Programme reminds me that we all need each other. I am excited about building relationships, relating to a diverse range of people and empowering members of the community, and I’m looking forward to assisting Stephen Timms MP with his schedule and casework.” In his spare time, Johnathan enjoys playing Gospel Music and going on long walks in the park.
Daniel Payne will be working with St Mary’s Anglican Church in Walthamstow, developing local leaders on a nearby estate, and as a parliamentary assistant to Tim Farron MP. Daniel is completely new to London having just moved from Cornwall. After studying History and Politics at Exeter University’s Falmouth Campus, he worked at an SEN school for Young People with autism. He is excited about building deep relationships with local people and encouraging them to be bold against injustice. He enjoys running in parks and to the pub.
Emily Burlington Horton will be working as an Intern for the Open Table Project, at St George-in-the-East Church in Shadwell, a Christian worshipping community consisting of street homeless, former homeless and housed individuals. She will also be working as a parliamentary assistant to the Bishop of Durham, supporting his work in the House of Lords. Emily studied Politics at Exeter University , where she also ran Just Love’s breakfast for the homeless and she has spent the last year working in supported accommodation for the homeless. Emily writes “I feel very excited about the programme and privileged this year to see politics from both top down and bottom up with Bishop Paul and the Open Table team.” In her spare time she loves to knit!
Where does Buxton gain it’s inspiration?
The programme, founded in 2013, takes its name and inspiration from Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, the 19th century social reformer and abolitionist who lived in the east end of London (near to CTC’s home in Shadwell) in the early 19th century. He was inspired to go into politics by witnessing the horrific conditions in Newgate prison where his sister-in-law Elizabeth Fry was working. As an MP he took over the leadership of the abolitionist movement from William Wilberforce, spearheading the campaign which led to the banning of slavery in the British Empire in 1833
Buxton sought change from both from both a ‘high’ and ‘grassroots’ level, building relationships in parliament, as well as with local networks and campaign leaders throughout the country. He used a variety of creative tactics to achieve change – indeed – many of the tools and tactics we know to be crucial to modern campaigning originated with the abolition movement: including petitions, boycotts and campaign icons. Community organising, as this year’s Buxtonians will find, requires imagination and creativity.
Crucial to Buxton’s mission was the art of negotiation, compromise and relationship with power. The 1833 Slavery abolition Act came about only after considerable and hard-won negotiation in parliament. Negotiation and compromise, as Emily, Daniel and Johnathan will be exploring, are at the bedrock of all political change, from the very local to the national and global – be it organising for lighting in a local park, or a radical new piece of legislation.
Finally, what stands out in the life of Sir Thomas, is that in all of his remarkable endeavours, the constant was his faithfulness to Christ. For the Buxton interns, being anchored in their faith will be crucial, and as such a key part of the structure of the programme is reflection and spiritual mentoring.
Our Buxtonians have an exciting and challenging, year ahead of them as they learn the habits of relating, negotiating, organising, acting and reflecting.
As the American Community Organiser Michael Gecan writes, the leaders in communities who are developed through organising, ‘are not protestors, partisans or helpless victims, but some other and more complicated, very different thing. They do not fit easily into the media’s pre-written stories. They succeed, but they succeed in unexpected ways and unexpected places’
Through the programme, we are seeking to create a relational network of leaders who are committed to transforming the world as it is into the world as it should be, in unexpected ways, and unexpected places.