Named after Olive Wagstaff – a lay leader at St George-in-the-East who was committed to prayer, worship and social justice – this new year-long course is open to members of churches in our School of Congregational Development, training them in the practices of community organising rooted in theological reflection and prayer.
The course provides a space for lay leaders to reflect on how God is calling them. Each evening opens with reflections on the call of different figures from scripture – Abraham, Mary, Job and the first disciples – alongside the stories of people in East London currently working for peace and human flourishing.
In addition, the course is an opportunity to learn, practise and reflect on the craft of community organising. Organising is a great means to help us hear the ‘cries of our people’ and to act. While many of the lay leaders have completed and benefitted from training run by Citizens UK, the evening course builds on this and examines the craft of organising with the eyes of faith. For instance, in the first two sessions, the group learn and practised the art of having one-to-one conversations. As well as a means of strengthening relationships, identifying leaders and developing capacity, we reflect on how one-to-ones are like sacramental encounters: we ‘walk on holy ground’ in approaching the other and can become aware of the presence of the risen Jesus with us in our encounters.
In summary, then, this year long evening course combines contemplative practice, instruction in community organising with faith sharing, prayer and food. At a time of scary and often bewildering political and social uncertainty, our hope is that the course will bear fruit in the lives of the group and – through them – the communities in which they live and worship.