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new necn website

We are proud to announce NECN’s new website:

https://estatechurches.org/

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There’s still a little bit to do, but please share this with anyone involved in estate churches.

Please join in the conversation – we are very happy to publish guest blogs and articles

and please let us have any comments or suggestions

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Urban Congress 2018 – Seeking the Kingdom in the City

More than 70 people from Church of England Birmingham’s inner city and outer estate parishes gathered for the day to reflect together on our life and mission as disciples within the city.

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This year, the Congress had a very dialogical and conversational character – people spent a lot of time talking to each other in small groups, with those from the Diocese listening.  It felt very much that this was a living example of Robert Schreiter’s concept of The Community as Theologian.  We had fun, we worshipped, we ate together.  We watched these films about mission and the kingdom in some of our parishes.

St Thomas, Garretts Green

St John and St Peter, Ladywood

Hodge Hill Church

The Church and the Estates

Paula Gooder introduced some biblical images of mission for us and got us thinking hard about which most excite us in our mission.  Here are our reflections:

Go! Matthew 28: 19 – 20

– ‘go’ and ‘come’ are both encompassed in this.

– relational

– comforting

– journey through life

– who we touch

 

Seek the welfare of the city, Jeremiah 29: 7

– welfare

– shalom

 

Freedom, Luke 4: 18 – 19

– it is easier to be a giver than to receive

– the importance of being broken

– issues of Church v Kingdom

– people we know

– “difference”

– mission at home.

 

An Uncomfortable Kingdom, Luke 13: 19

– weed

– untidy

– what our church does

– plant on purpose?

– symbolic tree

– abiding place

– how do we accommodate it?

– is the Kingdom like Japanese knotweed?

 

Care for the Stranger Luke, 10: 33

– receiving help

 

Parable of the Talents, Luke 19: 12

– little brings a lot

– put it to use

 

The Ethiopian Official Acts 8: 26

– explaining scripture

– our lives challenge others

– instant results vs long journey

 

Touching Jesus’ Cloak, Luke 8

– we want more!

 

Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20

– God’s nature – rewarding last minute workers the same fair wage and dignity

 

Yeast and Leaven, Matthew 13

– don’t fiddle with it or you will break it

– doing things at the right time

– doing things in God’s time

 

Mary

– scared

– terrified

– obedient

 

Nativity

– turned away

– no one listened

 

Widows and Unjust Judges, Luke 18

– persistence

 

God loves the world, John 3: 16

– love for everyone

– God loves us first

 

Jesus and the Lepers, Luke 17

– tending wounds

 

Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

– social justice

 

Sending out: Luke 10

– why I am here

– things happen

 

Chosen by God to Bear Fruit, John 15

 

Sowing Seed, Matthew 13

– not knowing what soil we have

– prodigality

– it is up to God

 

 

 

 

WHAT INSPIRES US?

– to see everyone welcomed

– our communities changing

– bringing people and communities together

– encouraging one another in mission

– looking inside – what is my purpose? what can I give?

– making Jesus accessible for all

– people coming together to share

– seeing God’s grace at work

– wanting Church to be different

– being joyful

– working with schools

– blessed are the poor

 

 

SOME OF THE ISSUES WE FACE:

– the community working together

– including young people in church

– theology and suffering – called to engage and respond

– intergenerational learning, reverse mentoring

 

 

 

WHAT IS NEEDED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN?

– “how to” guides

– more social media

– recognising the gifts that are already there

– mentoring / small cell groups

– sustaining with prayer

– working as churches together

– calling and releasing gifts

– working with all agencies

 

Simon Heathfield responded at the end of the day:

What are the things that matter?

What is God saying?

  1. Where is God’s sweetness?

– our parish

– our identities in God – this means seeing gift before deprivation

– let’s believe God’s identity in this place

– God has given us our identity, the authentic thing God calls us to be

– “there is treasure when you find what people have to give”

– what is the treasure in your place?

 

  1. Is your Church ‘come’ or ‘go’?

– building a culture of invitation

– ‘go’ = being changed

 

  1. Messiness

– how comfortable are you with mess?

– suffering?

– mustard seed

– Jean Vanier “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”

– the conversation today has been really positive

 

  1. Who is driving the agenda?

– where is the agency?

– the agency, the initiative, the power come from outside

– giving you the vision God has for you

 

  1. How do you deal with issues of timing that you cannot control?

– mission as not-knowing

– taking the long view



after the fire

After the Fire by Alan Everett is a profound meditation on the role of the Church in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster by the parish priest of St Clement’s, Notting Dale.  I would recommend this book as essential reading for all engaged in estates ministry.

Laurie Green has asked that NECN share the review by Hugh Beaven below:

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BOOK REVIEW:       AFTER THE FIRE : finding words for Grenfell   by Alan Everett
In this very readable and moving book, Father Alan Everett,  the vicar of St. Clement’s  Notting Dale, the parish  in which Grenfell Tower was situated,
writes about the Grenfell Tower fire and it aftermath.   In the words of the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin,   ‘the story of that terrible night and its aftermath is combined with profound reflections on the abiding value of faith and the parish system as part of the often  undervalued  bedrock of our social fabric. ‘
The book comprises 31 quite short chapters in 3 sections:  response, reflection, finding words, and concludes with a moving poem written by Fr. Alan.
The first section is in the nature of a diary of the unfolding story,  from the outbreak of the fire in the early hours of 14th June 2017 through the next few days  weeks and months.
Fr. Alan’s involvement began at 3.00am that morning when a neighbouring priest rang his doorbell and alerted him to the fire.  When he reached St. Clement’s, he opened the church,
‘ turned on the lights and lit the altar  candles as a sign of God’s presence and an invitation to prayer ‘. It was not long before other church members turned up and the church became
a place  of sanctuary, refuge and  comfort.
There was a tremendous spontaneous outpouring of donations of clothing, toiletries, water etc. which turned the church into what someone described as ‘the world’s biggest jumble sale’.
Eventually, a sign had to be put up outside the church to say that no more donations could be accepted.  Amongst items donated were  5 second hand fridges, of no use whatever for survivors living in temporary
accommodation, and as a gesture of support, massively inappropriate given it was thought that a fridge had started the fire. Equally insensitive was the callous comment made to him that at least those in the tower and the bereaved were from countries where suffering is endemic : ‘at least they’re used to it ‘.
In the 2nd section, reflection, Fr. Alan reflects theologically on the role of the parish church and the parish system as an expression of the Incarnation of God in Christ. He makes the point that many local people
had a great affection for St. Clement’s through  ‘key moments’ in their lives: at baptisms, weddings and funerals and through having attended the church primary school.
I knew St. Clement’s church over 50 years ago when, as  a newly qualified solicitor working in London, I was a member of the vicarage ‘family ‘ for some 15 months and became very involved in the life of the church and the parish.
St. Clement’s, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last October, was a product of the Oxford movement, that amazing renewal of the Holy Spirit which helped to transform the life and worship of the Church of England in the 2nd half of the 19th century
and inspired dedicated  (and often heroic ) priests to go and work in some of the poorest parts of our big cities.   I rejoice that St.  Clement’s   maintains an outgoing, inclusive anglo – catholic  tradition in worship and mission and is truly a parish church.
Hugh Beavan


st hilda’s way 4 – whitby

I arrived in Whitby.  A walk through to the harbour, over the bridge, and the choice of the 199 Steps or of Caedmon’s Trod up to St Mary’s Church and the ruins of the Abbey.

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The story of Hild and Caedmon is important.  Bishop Jill Duff writes, in the context of estate churches and evangelism:

You may have heard of St Hilda – she was abbess of a mixed monastery in Whitby that sent out bishops, evangelists all across Britain. You may not have heard of Caedmon. He was a cattle herd, tongue tied, he found it very difficult to make himself understood. But one night he had a dream that he could sing a heavenly song about the creation of the world. When he woke up he could remember the song. He told the steward who told Hilda. Hilda invited Caedmon to sing his heavenly song at the feast. This was the start of an incredible ministry – Caedmon would sing the gospel in the local language in words that the ordinary people could understand.

We talk of new approaches to evangelism. Here’s my top tip: let’s find our Caedmon’s – let them do it because the Spirit of God is giving them the ability to so that people can hear the wonders of God in their own languages. The Day of Pentecost today. Every day.

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You can hear a version of The Song of Caedmon here and read it here.

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So, Caedmon and Hild are of the greatest importance to my ministry as well as to this pilgrimage, as we seek to help people to find their voices to sing the song of God in their everyday language.  I spent a fair number of the miles praying this.

And I finished St Hilda’s Way.  I lit candles in St Mary’s Church, and made my way back to the bus station with perhaps a pause to wet my whistle first.

St Hilda’s Way is a decent little route.  If you walk it, you need to be able to read a map and navigate if visibility is poor on the moors.  The Guide, which is excellent, gives options for shorter day loops if you want to walk shorter stages than me.  It would be possible to wildcamp I think.  There are plenty of pubs and b&bs along the way.

Happy Trails!



sharing justly

I was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme, calling for a just sharing of historic assets between dioceses so that mission and ministry at the sharp end can be supported.  You can hear the interview here (it is towards the end of the segment that begins at 6 minutes).

This is a vital and urgent issue.

Here are some further thoughts to try to take the issue further and deeper.

The situation we are in is that there is a huge disparity in wealth between the different dioceses.  Some (particularly the newer urban dioceses in the north and midlands like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham) have very little in terms of historic assets and reserves.  Other dioceses are in comparatively very comfortable situations.

Why should ministry be harder in these places because they are newer dioceses, formed without historic assets?

This is not posturing.  My greatest concern as someone who is a parish priest and who visits and supports a lot of housing estate parishes around the country is that this directly affects mission on the ground.  There is clear evidence that dioceses in more economically deprived areas with less historical assets have fewer stipendiary ministers per head of population.

This has a clear effect on our parishes and their ministry. If you have to pay more Parish Share, or your parish is larger, or your diocese is concentrating on reorganization, or you are affected by all the fear and stress that this can bring, this is going to affect your capacity for imaginative and creative mission.

The Church is investing in estate churches and estate evangelism at the moment – something which is wholehearted Good News – but the lack of fair assets in some place endangers this.

What does the Gospel say?  well, it certainly does not advocate a Postcode Lottery where if you live in one place, the historic assets of the Church mean you pay less for more ministry; while if you live in another (which may well be more economically deprived), you pay more for less.

We need urgently to work out ways of justly sharing our historic wealth.  Bishop Philip North reminds us clearly that The first Christians dealt with their wealth in so daring and counter-cultural a way that it proved powerfully attractive (Acts 2.44). Property and income was pooled so that there was no distinction between rich and poor, slave and free. (Read his full Church Times article here).  We can do this for dioceses – we are Christians, we are part of the Church of God, we are generous.

Can we find ways of tackling this in a root and branch way, or – at the very least – with wealthier dioceses funding some things in those with least.  Bishops and Diocesan Secretaries – over to you!

And the rest of us – pray, share this issue, and keep the pressure on.



NECN London Gathering

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thoughts on estate ministry