This week, I spent Monday and Tuesday at a 24 hour conference led by Bishop Lynn Cullens of the Estates Evangelism Task Group, as part of my role as Bishop's Advisor on Estates Ministry and as minister to those on lowest incomes here in Ashford. The EETG has been set up by the Church of England to promote mission and ministry to those who live on social housing estates, and others on lowest incomes in urban areas.
There were two highlights of the event for me: the first was the keynote speaker, Bishop Rob Wickham, now Group Chief Executive of the Church Urban Fund. His speech 'Opening Doors' reminded us that doors can be opened for those in need not only by the agencies of power, but also by servant ministry.
The second was an evening session with the many church and parachurch organisations, which were there to promote their work. The array of support and schemes on offer was a real eye-opener to me, considering how many of them we here in Ashford could potentially benefit from.
Our areas of greatest economic deprivation lie around Christ Church, Bockhanger, Newtown and Stanhope, with pockets elsewhere across the town. We are seeing needs rising sharply at present - more and more people are struggling to make ends meet, and we need to respond with generosity, but with generosity that is targeted, effective, and supports people to move away from dependence to independence.
I'm hoping to meet with all the local church teams over the coming months to review how their social action activities in their Mission Action Plans are doing against that barometer. I now have a range of other agency contacts who may be able to help us to take different and innovative steps to minister to those most in need in our communities, and look forward to working in partnership with them and with you as we love our neighbours and enable them to flourish.
The Revd Teena Twelves