Were you around in 2021 when we were doing the work that led to the formulation of this headline for our parish vision statement? I remember preaching at every main morning service around the parish in early summer about the Mission Action Planning process. We handed out questionnaires asking what our churches should be most passionate about. ‘Serving the community around us’ was the most popular answer.
That was when the remaining Covid-19 legal restrictions finally began to be removed. Once that had happened, our churches were keen to resume pre-pandemic activities that had been about serving the community, and some new ones have been added since then too. It’s a wonderful thing that so many people from our churches are prepared to give their time, skills and money to support initiatives that make a positive difference to people for whom life is hard, for all kinds of reasons.
The parish mini conference this year, on ‘Social Action and Community Organising’, provides a great opportunity for us to come together, find out about different social action initiatives that are currently happening across the parish, and explore where there might be a need for us to start something new. It’s at St Francis Church, Saturday 4 November, 9.30–12.30am. Great venue for it – I hope you will have seen the report on the recent launch of the Community Hub there.
Everyone who’s interested in serving the community through church action is really welcome to come along and join in. That must be most of our congregations, so it would be great to have hundreds of people there! There’s also a particular relevance for all those on Local Leadership Teams, as we start to think about Mission Action Planning goals for next year. Where can we learn from one another, where can we support one another, and where could we come together to do something new and transformative in serving the community around us?
I’m also looking forward to learning more about Community Organising and how churches can participate in it. It’s an international movement that has had a profoundly transformative impact in many places on apparently intractable situations of social need. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,’ God tells his people in Babylon, ‘and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’ (Jeremiah 29.7).
The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen