Selina Stone is a Church-based Community Organiser at CTC. Earlier this month, she was part of the team teaching community organising to final-year ordinands at St Mellitus College…
CTC and Citizens UK were delighted to be invited to deliver six teaching sessions at St Mellitus College on the theology and practice of churches’ engagement in community organising.
For many students, community organising was a brand new concept. Stefan Baskerville, lead organiser for West London used the first session to teach the students the some of the fundamental principles and practices of Citizens UK. The students wrestled with the idea of ‘power’ as something to be welcomed (when it is ‘power with’ and not ‘power over’ others).
Stefan presented the ‘one-to-one’ meeting as a tool for developing relationships within and between institutions in communities. Many students said this approach could help them fulfil their ambition of developing a more relational culture in the congregations where they will serve.
The language of ‘self-interest’ – a term used in organising to describe a person’s concerns and passions, rather than ‘selfish interest’ – provoked more debate, and this was picked in the second session.
Members of the class were grateful for the chance to reflect on the vision of the world as it is and to be inspired to see the world as it should be. Although new to many of them, community organising presented a model of engagement that could address many of the social and political concerns they had.
The second set of sessions focused on the theological basis for community organising and was led by CTC’s Director Angus Ritchie. Our sessions began with a presentation of some of the key theological ideas that motivate Christians to organise – drawing on the material in CTC’s Just Church report, and also in the report I’m writing with Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere on theology and Pentecostal engagement. This led us to explore the Gospel as a message of redemption and reconciliation not only between God and humanity but also between diverse communities – and the ways in which the Church can be ‘salt and light’ in the world.
Building on this theological framework, Angus explained how community organising can help congregations to develop and grow. He presented ‘Seven Hallmarks of an Organised Church’ – the characteristics of a congregation which is developing by using the tools of community organising, grounded in theological reflection and prayer. The students reflected on how their churches or ministry contexts integrate theology, prayer and action, and how they might use some of the tools of organising to build a more relational culture.
The sessions led to lively discussion and debate as well as moments of personal reflection and quiet thought. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit of the seeds which have been sown in these sessions – in congregations across the Church of England.